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The present volume combines Professor Elias Bickerman's 
two major studies on the period: "The Historical Founda- 
tions of Postbiblical Judaism," originally published in 1949 
in The Jews; Their History, Culture, and Religion, edited 
by Louis Finkelstein and reprinted with the permission of 
the editor and Harper & Brothers; and The Maccabees: An 
Account of Their History from the Beginnings to the Fall of 
the House of the Hasmoneans, originally published in 1947 
by Schocken Books in its Library series. Chapter vii of the 
"Historical Foundations" has been omitted, since its contents 
duplicates in part the presentation in The Maccabees. With 
this exception the two studies complement each other. 


Copyright 1949 by Louis Finkelstein 
Copyright 1947, 1962 by Schocken Books Inc. 

Manufactured in the United States of America 


Map of Palestine in the Time of the Maccabees vi 


Return from Babylonian Exile 3 

Judaism of Ezra and the Chronicler 11 

The Jews of Elephantine 32 

Policies of Alexander the Great 41 

Impact of Hellenism on Judaism; the Scribes 54 

The Greek Version of the Torah 72 


The Persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes 93 

The Uprising Judah the Maccabee 112 

On the Road to Independence 136 

Judea a Hellenistic Princedom 

John Hyrcanus 148 

Genesis and Character of Maccabean Hellenism 153 

From Alexander Jannaeus to Pompey 166 

Conclusion 178 

Chronology 183 

Genealogical Tables 185 


Territory ? Jenrw&ffl co. 167 B.CL 

Reeb ol Aletssder Joaoows co. 76 B.U 



350 6621814 



The sacred history of the Chosen People ends 
chronologically with Nehemiah's prayer: "Remem- 
ber us, O God, for good." With Nehemiah's name, 
"glorious in his memory ," concludes the praise of 
the worthies in the Wisdom of Ben Sir a, composed 
in Jerusalem ahout 190 B.C.E. Thus, even before the 
Maccabean revolt, the Jews recognized that after 
Nehemiah and his contemporary prophets, that is, 
toward the end of the fifth century, in the age of 
Socrates, the postbiblical period of Jewish history 
begins. That period is marked by a unique and 
rewarding polarity: on the one hand, the Jerusalem 
center and, on the other, the plurality of centers 
in the Diaspora. The Dispersion saved Judaism 
from physical extirpation and spiritual inbreeding. 
Palestine united the dispersed members of the na- 
tion and gave them a sense of oneness. This 
counterpoise of historical forces is without analogy 
in antiquity. There were, of course, numberless 

migrations and transportations of peoples and frag- 
ments of peoples; but in due time these offshoots 
lost connection with the main stock. The colonists 
brought to cities of Syria by Assyrian kings, the men 
of Cutha or of Erech, were very soon detached psy- 
chologically from their respective cities. Likewise, 
Phoenician or Greek settlements soon separated 
from the metropolis. At the most, the Phoenicians 
had refused to follow a Persian king in his cam- 
paign against Carthage, their colony. 1 But the 
Jewish Dispersion continued to consider Jerusalem 
as the "metropolis" (Philo), turned to the Holy 
Land for guidance, and in turn, determined the 
destinies of its inhabitants. Men who established 
the normative Judaism in Palestine Zerubbabel, 
Ezra, Nehemiah came from the Diaspora, from 
Babylon and Susa. 

The forces which unwittingly enabled Israel to 
develop into a people alike at home in the ancestral 
land as well as in the lands of the Dispersion were 
largely external. When Jerusalem was conquered 
(597 B.C.E.) and, later (586), destroyed by the 
Babylonians, the court, the warriors, the craftsmen 
were transferred to Mesopotamia. This device of 
deportation, invented perhaps by the Hittites, and 
applied subsequently by all their successors 
(Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Turks and 

even Anglo-Americans as readers of Longfellow's 
Evangeline know) was by no means an attempt at 
extermination. The distortion of the ancient ex- 
pedient is an invention of a modern, European 
nation in the twentieth century. Being Semites and 
idolators, the Babylonians simply transported a 
rebellious group elsewhere in order to break its 
natural cohesion. In new surroundings, mixed with 
other ethnic elements, the former enemy learned 
obedience and, once subdued, furnished labor, 
taxes and military services. Accordingly, the exiles 
received land to till, abandoned sites to rebuild and 
to settle. 2 They remained free and mostly under 
leadership of native chiefs. Such a segan (as he is 
called in Aramaic documents) of Phrygians, of 
Carians, etc., is often mentioned in cuneiform 
records from Babylonia. On the other hand, since 
the structure of Oriental monarchies was essentially 
feudal, there was neither the wish nor the need to 
assimilate. Thus, in 331 B.C.E., there was still near 
Nippur (in Mesopotamia) a Carian settlement of 
colonists transported there from Asia Minor at least 
two hundred years before. Likewise, the Captivity 
had created numerous Jewish settlements in Meso- 
potamia. As a later Babylonian historian tells us 
(according to some lost original records), King 
Nebuchadnezzar assigned to the captives dwelling 

places "in the most convenient districts of Bab- 
ylonia."* Later, in 539, when the Persian king 
Cyrus conquered Babylon, he reversed, quite 
naturally, the policy of his adversary and allowed 
gods and men in Babylonian captivity to return 

At this moment, the restoration of the Holy City, 
burned fifty years previously, depended on an 
accidental conjunction. When the Assyrians con- 
quered Samaria in 722 they established a military 
colony there. As a result, the Ten Tribes, deported 
to Assyria, could never again come back. Since, 
however, there were already military colonies of 
the Assyrians in Palestine (Samaria, Gezer, etc.), 
Nebuchadnezzar did not need to send new settlers 
to Jerusalem. Further, although the Babylonians 
were savage in battle, they took no delight in use- 
less destruction and wholesale slaughter. The 
remnant of Judah was not exterminated or scientifi- 
cally tortured to death. Nobody desecrated the 
graves in Jerusalem; nobody prevented the be- 
lievers from bringing meal offerings and frankin- 
cense to the burned-down House of the Lord and 
from weeping on its ruins. The walls of Jerusalem 
being broken down by the Babylonians, the ancient 
capital was now an open Jewish village. So, unlike 
the case of Samaria, there was a political vacuum 

which the Restoration could fill. In the same man- 
ner, for example, the Thebans, dispersed by 
Alexander the Great (in 334), returned eighteen 
years later and rebuilt their commonwealth. 4 The 
exceptional feature of Jewish history is the re- 
luctance of so many of the exiled to go back. They 
remained in Mesopotamia but, paradoxically, con- 
tinued to care for the Holy City generation after 
generation, for centuries and millennia. Cupbearer 
before Artaxerxes I, born and reared in the fifth 
generation in the Diaspora, Nehemiah weeps when 
he hears of the affliction of the Children of Israel in 
Jerusalem. He risks disgrace to obtain royal favor 
for the Holy City. How are we to explain this unity 
between the Dispersion and Jerusalem? 

Every transferred group continued, as a matter 
of course, to worship the ancestral gods on foreign 
soil. The men of Cutha, transplanted to Samaria, 
worshiped Nergal, and the men of Sepharvaim in 
Samaria continued to sacrifice their children to 
Adrammelech and Anamelech (II Kings 17:30).* 
"The Jewish force* 9 in Elephantine, mercenaries 
established there by the Pharaohs about 600 B.CJE.,* 
continued to worship the national God on the 
southern frontier of Egypt. On the other hand, as 
a matter of course, the colonists feared and wor- 
shiped gods of the land in which they dwelt. A 

priest of Beth-el was sent back from the Captivity 
to teach the Assyrian colonists in the land of Sa- 
maria how to serve the God of Israel. But the latter 
was a "jealous God." Some Jews at Elephantine, 
the seat of the Egyptian god Khnum, seem to have 
accepted this sheep-headed divinity, or other pagan 
deities. But even to them the God of Zion, "Yahu" 
or "Yahu Sabaot," as they styled Him, remained 
the supreme divinity. 7 

The Diaspora clung to its unique God and to 
Jerusalem, the unique center of lawful worship. 
But at the same time, the God of Zion, the "great 
and terrible God," was not only the God of the 
Jews; He was the sole God in heaven and earth, the 
so-called deities of the pagans were nothing but 
vain idols. Hence, the polarity of Jerusalem and 
the Dispersion had its ideological counterpart in 
the paradoxical combination of universal mono- 
theism and particularism, in the conception that 
the sole Lord of the Universe dwells on the hillock 
of Zion. This theological paradox held the Jews 
in the Dispersion together, and from all points of 
the compass they directed their eyes to the Lord's 
Temple in Jerusalem. 

But here, in turn, we have to consider the politi- 
cal aspect of the situation. The spiritual unity of 
the Jews could hardly be established around Jeru- 

salem if the whole Orient, from the Indus to Ethi- 
opia, had not been one world obeying the orders 
issued by the Persian king. By its influence at the 
royal court, the Diaspora in Babylonia and Persia 
could act in behalf of Jewry everywhere and im- 
pose a uniform standard of faith and behavior. In 
a papyrus unearthed in Elephantine we can still 
read a communication, sent in 419, to the Jewish 
settlement at this other end of the world, giving 
rules as to the observance of the Feast of Un- 
leavened Bread. These instructions were forwarded 
to the satrap of Egypt by King Darius of Persia. 
On the other hand, in their troubles with the 
Egyptians, the Jews in Elephantine wrote to the 
Jewish authorities in Jerusalem. 

Or again, the re-establishment of normative 
Judaism after the Exile is connected by both 
Jewish tradition and modern scholarship with the 
name of Ezra, who restored the Law of Moses. But 
unlike Moses, Ezra's authority to promulgate and 
administer the Torah in Jerusalem was not derived 
from a Divine Revelation. Ezra arrived at Jerusa- 
lem as a Persian commissioner with a royal letter 
placing "the Law of thy God" on the same com- 
pulsory level as the law of the king, and threaten- 
ing the offender of Mosaic precepts with death, 
banishment, confiscation of goods and imprison- 

ment. In this way the perpetual character of the 
Torah was established and the Divine Law made 
known and imposed on all Jewry under the Persian 
scepter. When, after the dissolution of the empire 
of Alexander the Great, ahout 300 B.C.E., the unity 
of the political world of which the Jews were part 
had been broken, the religious and spiritual cohe- 
sion remained firmly established on the foundations 
laid down during the Persian age by Ezra and 
Nehemiah, King Darius and King Artaxerxes. 

The imperial protection shielded Palestinian 
Jewry from the Arabs and the Philistines, Edom 
and Moab. In the background of Jewish history 
in Palestine, from the time of the Judges, there was 
a constant drive of Aramaic and Arab nomads 
against the settled country whose comforts they 
envied. Persian, and later, Macedonian, frontier 
guards secured from now on the peace of the 
Jewish peasant. If Jerusalem had not been a part 
of a Gentile empire, the nomads would have driven 
the Jews into the sea or swallowed up Palestine, 
and the rock of Zion would have been the found- 
ation of an Arabian sanctuary a thousand years be- 
fore Omar's mosque. 



Let us now take a look at Judaism in the last 
century of Persian rule, after Nehemiah (432) and 
before Alexander's conquest of Asia (332). During 
this period, Jerusalem and a strip of land around 
it formed a small district of Judea (llehud) lost in 
the enormous satrapy "Across the River," that is, 
west of the Euphrates. The district of Judea was 
approximately a quadrilateral, about thirty-five 
miles long, from Beth-el to Beth-zur, and from 
twenty-five to thirty miles broad, the plateau be- 
tween the Dead Sea and the lowland in the west. 
Its area was about a thousand square miles, of 
which a good part was desert. Of the political his- 
tory of Judea during our period there is virtually 
no record. An accidental notice informs us that 
Artaxerxes III of Persia had deported many Jews 
to the Caspian Sea during his campaign against 
Egypt, In all probability, Jerusalem, like Sidon, 
sided with Egypt in this conflict. A cuneiform tablet 


records the transport of prisoners from Sidon to 
Babylonia in the autumn of 345. 8 Thirteen years 
later Jerusalem as well as Sidon opened the gates 
to Alexander the Macedonian. 

There was a Persian governor in Jerusalem; 
there was a provincial fiscus; jar handles bearing 
stamps of "Judea" and "Jerusalem" in Hebrew 
Und later Aramaic) characters show that tribute 
was paid in kind.* The governors received "bread 
and wine" from the people (Neh. 5:15) and since 
the governor had to provide a free table for his 
offieers and the nobles of the land, each day he 
had to slay one ox and six choice sheep, exclusive 
of fowl. No wonder, then, that the governor ex- 
pected a sheep as a present in behalf of suppliants 
(Mai. 1:8). Monetary economy, nevertheless, began 
to grow in Palestine. In the time of Nehemiah there 
are people borrowing money to pay the royal taxes. 
It is worth noting that Persian royal coins have not 
been found until now in the numerous and rich 
coin hoards of the fourth century in this region. 
Likewise, the Book Ezra-Nehemiah does not men- 
tion any coin; when it mentions precious metals 
and objects made of the metals, it reports their 
weight. There is no certain record of troops from 
Judea in Persian service. The contingent from "the 
Solymian hills" in Xerxes 9 expedition against 


Greece, mentioned in the epic poem of Choerilus, 
a friend of Herodotus, refers probably to th^ 
"eastern Ethiopians." But the Jews had arms and 
had to appear with their swords, their spears and 
their bows by order of the governor. The latter had 
his personal guard, and the castle in which he lived 
commanded the Temple HilL 

Like every city and nation in the Persian Empire 
the Jews enjoyed a more or less large autonomy, 
amplified by bribes and diminished from time to 
time by arbitrary interference of the Persian au- 
thorities. For instance, when once a murder had 
been committed in the Temple, the governor in- 
flicted on the Jewish nation the fine of fifty shekels 
for every lamb used in the daily offering; this pay- 
ment was enforced for seven years, that is, 
probably, until a new governor came to Jerusalem. 
The Jews were represented by "the nobles of the 
Jews," the heads of the clans. On the other hand, 
there was the High Priest, "and his colleagues the 
priests who are in Jerusalem," as a document of 
409 says. All the sacred personnel, the priests, 
Levites, singers, doorkeepers, slaves and servants 
of the Temple were free of tolls, tributes and cus- 
toms. Here as elsewhere the Persian government 
favored the priesthood among its subjects as against 
the military aristocracy. The introduction of the 


Torah as u the law of the Jews" by a royal decree 
in 445 served the same purpose. Nevertheless, it 
would he erroneous to regard the district of Yehud 
in the fourth century as an ecclesiastical state. 
While in Egypt, at the same date, a very large part 
of the soil belonged to the temples, and even a tithe 
of custom duties was assigned to them, 11 the sanc- 
tuary of Jerusalem does not appear to have pos- 
sessed any real estate outside its own site, and the 
emoluments of the priests were offerings of the 
believers. Even the voluntary contribution of a 
third of a shekel by every male Israelite, estab- 
lished under Nehemiah to defray the expenses of 
public worship, fell into disuse. 3 * But the influence 
of the priests continued to rise. In Nehemiah's time 
lay raters of Judah led in public affairs, e.g., in the 
dedication of the walls of Jerusalem, while the 
priests and the Levites purified the people; likewise 
plots against Nehemiah were devised among "the 
nobles of Judah," A century after him, a Greek 
traveler learned from his Jewish informant that 
public affairs of the Jews were administered by 
priests, 1 * 

It is a widely spread error that Judaism after 
Ezra was under the yoke of the Law, that the Jews 
were a community governed by an extreme strict- 
ness, that they were immune to foreign contagion 


and, until the Macedonian conquest, separated 
from the Greek world. As a matter of fact, excava- 
tions have shown that in the fifth and fourth cen- 
turies B.C.E., Palestine belonged to the belt of an 
eclectic, Greco-Egyption-Asiatic culture, which ex- 
tended from the Nile Delta to Cilicia." The kitchen 
pots, as well as heavy bronze anklets worn by girls, 
or weapons of men, were now the same in the 
whole Levant, united under Persian sway. Greek 
painted pottery, Phoenician amulets and Egyptian 
idols are equally typical of Palestine in the fourth 
century. A Jerusalemite who went down to the 
coastal cities, let us say to Ascalon, could not help 
seeing a Greek cup showing Oedipus in conversa- 
tion with the Sphinx or small bronzes of Egyptian 
deities. And when he returned with earthenware for 
his household, it might happen that he introduced 
into the Holy City reminiscence of a Greek mythos. 
An Attic black-figured cup with a sphinx has been 
found at Tell-En-Nashbeh, some six miles north 
of Jerusalem. The story, related by a pupil of 
Aristotle, that the master had met in Asia Minor 
(c. 345 B.C.E.) a Hellenized Greek-speaking Jew is 
probably a fiction, but not one which is improb- 
able, 15 The commercial influence of Greece in 
Palestine was so great that the Athenian coins be- 
came the principal currency for trade transactions 


in the fifth century. This currency was gradually 
replaced in the fourth century by local imitations 
of the Athenian "owls." The authorities in Pales- 
tine also struck such imitations. 16 As their small 
denominations show, these coins were destined for 
local use and for business transactions on market 
days. Nevertheless, used by pious Jews and even 
bearing the stamp of a Jewish agent of the Persian 
government (Hezekiah), these first Jewish coins 
show not only the owl of the Athenian model but 
also human figures, 17 and even the image of a 
divinity seated on a winged wheel. 18 Whether the 
die cutter simply imitated here the Baal of the 
Tarsian coins or intended to represent in this way 
the "Lord of Hosts," these coins are hardly in ac- 
cord with the biblical interdiction of "graven im- 
ages." In fact, being real men and not puppets like 
the characters portrayed in conventional textbooks, 
the Jews of the Restoration, like those of every 
generation, were entangled in contradictions and in 
conflicting patterns of real life. 

They were convinced that God set them apart 
from the nations (Lev. 20:24), but they called Him 
the God of Heaven, which was the title of Ahura- 
mazda, the deity of their Persian rulers. They re- 
garded as Israel's heritage the whole land from 
Dan to Beer-sheba, even from Egypt to the Orontes 


(I Chron. 13:5), but did not establish friendly re- 
lations with the remnants of Ephraim who 
worshiped the same God and consecrated His 
priests according to the prescriptions of the Torah 
(II Chron. 13:9). In Jerusalem in the fourth 
century the priesthood was considered firmly 
organized by David himself, but among these an- 
cient priestly families were some like the clan 
Hakoz, which had been regarded as of doubtful 
lineage only a hundred years before. The Jews 
imagined that they were living according to the 
Law of Moses, while the synagogue, unknown to 
the Torah, became a fundamental part of their 
devotional life. So "the congregation of the Lord" 
became the basic element of the nation 1 * and a 
Jerusalemite could not imagine the national kings 
of the past acting otherwise than in agreement with 
the Holy Community (I Chron. 13:1; 16:1; 28:8; 
29:1; II Chron. 30:4). Of still greater significance 
was another innovation : how the Torah came to be 
taught "throughout all the cities of Judah" (U 
Chron. 17:9). Before this the priests had kept to 
themselves the decision on matters of ritual and of 
morals. The knowledge comes from the priest's 
lips, says an author of the age of Ezra and Nehe- 
miah, and law from the priest's mouth, because he 
is the messenger of the Lord (Mai. 2:7). But the 


democratization of the instruction in the Law in 
the fourth century opened the way to the coming 
of the scribe, and imperceptibly compromised the 
supremacy of the priest. From now on, the superi- 
ority of learned argument over authoritative decree 
prevailed. The First Psalm presents as the model of 
happiness not the officiating priests in the Temple, 
but rather the Sage who meditates on the Torah 
day and night. Scribes and Sages, clergy and lay- 
men, the Jews were expected to be "saints," holy 
unto the Lord (Lev. 20:26). But the Law of God 
which gave the standard of holiness was imposed 
upon the saints by the decree of their pagan 

Another widespread and mistaken conception is 
that of postexilic exdusiveness. 90 As a matter of 
fact, in the Persian period, the Jews were first of 
all peoples we know to open wide the gates to 
proselytes. Every ancient cult was exclusive; none 
bet the members of a family participated in the 
worship of its tutelary gods; no foreigner was able 
to sacrifice to the deities of a city. 11 When Orestes, 
unasked as a stranger, returns to his ancestral home, 
he asks permission to take part in religious cere- 
monies* "if strangers may sacrifice with citizens."* 
In the fifth century BX.R. the Athenians equally 
that it is a "calamity" to have an alien 


father.* 3 They were proud of being autochthonous, 
and not immigrants of mixed blood. In 333 B.C.E., 
when Alexander the Great was already making war 
in Asia, a special law was necessary in Athens to 
authorize the shrine of a foreign deity on the sacred 
soil of Pallas.* 4 But the Jewish law allowed a 
stranger sojourning among the Jews to keep the 
Passover with the congregation of Israel (Ezra 
6:21). "One law shall be to him that is homebom, 
and unto the stranger who sojourns among you" 
(Ex. 12:49). And again: "The stranger who so- 
journs with you shall be to you as the homeborn 
among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself" 
(Lev. 19:34). An Athenian contemporary of Ezra 
would be astonished to hear that he has to love 
the Metoeci. Equally startling for the ancient world 
was the idea of proselytism, the appeal to the 
nations to join themselves to the Lord, which be- 
gan with Second Isaiah and was repeated by later 
prophets again and again. "Thus says the Lord of 
hosts : In those days it shall come to pass, that ten 
men shall take hold, out of all the languages of the 
nations, shall even take hold of the skirt of him 
that is a Jew, saying: We will go with you, for we 
have heard that God is with you" (Zech. 8:23). So, 
the postexilic community establishes the new and 
really revolutionary principle: "Thus says the 


Lord: My house shall he called a house of prayer for 
all peoples" (Is. 56:7). 

Again we meet with the fact that every historical 
situation is many-sided and full of contradictions. 
The heathens were tolerant and their gods lived 
amicably side hy side because each nation had its 
own gods who did not care for other people. An 
Argive refugee in Athens is told not to be afraid of 
the Argive gods: u We have gods who fight on our 
side and who are not weaker than those on the side 
of the Argives.* Thus, the pagans made no efforts 
to convert a stranger but, for the same reason, ex- 
cluded him from their own religion. Everybody was 
a true believer, in the opinion of the heathen, if he 
worshiped his ancestral gods. Thus, each city was 
exclusive and intolerant within its walls, but 
recognized the other gods outside. On the other 
hand, knowing that the Lord is the One True God, 
the Jews naturally proselytized among the heathen 
and admitted the converted to the universal 
religion. And for that same reason they were in- 
tolerant of those outside the congregation and re- 
jected the folly of idolatry. Only a Jew was a true 
believer, but everybody could enter the congrega- 
tion of the Chosen People. 

The thought of this period is illustrated in an 
anonymous historical composition which now ap- 


pears in the Bible as Ezra-Nehemiah and Chroni- 
cles. The arrangement reveals that the latter part 
of the orginal work (Ezra-Nehemiah) found its 
way into the scriptural canon before the portion 
(Chronicles) which related the pre-exilic history 
already covered by the Books of Samuel and Kings. 
But the work originally formed a single, continuous 
narrative from Adam to Nehemiah ; it was still read 
in this edition by the compiler of a Greek version 
(the so-called First Esdras) in the second century 


For the pre-exilic period the Chronicler draws 
for the most part on the Books of Samuel and 
Kings, but adds a great deal of information from 
other sources. Historians usually discount this ad- 
ditional material and blame the Chronicler for his 
little regard for facts. He can, for instance, state 
coolly that David had 1,570,000 warriors, exclusive 
of the troops of Levi and Benjamin (I Chron. 
21:5). But the same exuberance in numbers is 
displayed by Assyrian records, and the source of 
the Chronicler (II Sam. 24) gives a number no 
less fantastic for David's army: 1,300,000. Fact- 
hunting critics overlook a very important feature 
of the work: its emancipation from the authority 
of tradition. 

Oriental historiography is strictly traditional. An 


Assyrian reviser of royal annals may transform 
a booty of 1,235 sheep into one of 100,225;* or at- 
tribute to the king a successful campaign of his 
predecessor; but in the main he simply summarizes 
his source. The compiler of Kings closely follows 
his authorities, although he adds personal com- 
ments to the events. The Chronicler, like Hecataeus 
of Miletus or Herodotus, gives such information 
concerning the past as appears to him most 
probable, and corrects the sources in conformity 
with his own historical standards. For instance, 
when he asserts that the Levites carried the Ark 
in accordance with David's order (I Chron. 15:1), 
he interpolates something into his source (II Sam. 
6:12) because he assumes as self-evident that the 
pious king could not but act according to the Law 
of Moses (Ex. 25:13). For the same reason he says 
"Levites" (II Chron. 5:4) when his source (I Kings 
8:3) speaks of "priests" taking up the Ark under 
Solomon. Following his rule of historical prob- 
ability, he cannot believe that Solomon turned over 
some cities to Hiram of Tyre (I Kings 9:12) ; so he 
changes the text: the cities were given by Hiram to 
Solomon (H Chron- 8:2). In the same manner, he 
attributes to ancient kings, David and Josiah, the 
organization of the priesthood and of the sacred 
services as they existed in his own time. Since Israel 


had ceased to be an independent state, the author 
treats with predilection all matters concerning the 
Temple, which now became the center of national 
life, and devotes a long description to religious 
measures of King Hezekiah which are hardly 
mentioned in Kings. Owing to the shift of historical 
interest, he passes over in silence the Northern 
Kingdom, which had rebelled against the house of 
David. He does not hesitate to use the term "Israel" 
when he speaks of Judah, which alone remained 
faithful to the covenant of the fathers. 

The critics have often stressed the Chronicler's 
practice of viewing the past as the realization in 
Israel of the rules and principles of the Torah, his 
tendency to find the origins of the Judaism of his 
own day in remote antiquity. In fact, his purpose 
is not to give a mere chronicle but to provide a 
clue to the meaning and direction of Israel's his- 
tory. The same attempt, with regard to Greek (and 
even world) history, was made by Herodotus, who 
wrote about a hundred years before the Chronicler. 
Herodotus seems to feel that the gods, envious of 
human greatness and happiness, use man's wrong- 
doings to punish him or his posterity. It is the 
doctrine of Nemesis, exemplified, for instance, in 
Polycrates's fate. The moral of history is, therefore, 
to remain an average man; its lesson is that of 


moderation and submission to destiny, the "nothing 
in excess" of the Seven Sages. 

The Jewish author finds in divine pragmatism 
the principle for understanding the past; his clue 
is the idea of retribution. That is, of course, nothing 
new, Herodotus explains Croesus' fall by the sin of 
his ancestor in the fifth generation. In a cuneiform 
text Nabonidus's evil-doing explains his fall and the 
catastrophe of Babylon. 27 But the Chronicler de- 
scribes the whole of human history from this stand- 
point. According to his conception, the pious kings 
always enjoyed prosperity, while punishment neces- 
sarily befell the wicked and unfaithful ones* The 
idea is applied to the reinterp relation of the past 
with the same constancy and disregard of facts as 
when some modern books describe history in terms 
of class struggle or racial changes. From Saul to the 
last king, Zedekiah, the evil-doers die for their 
transgressions. But, since the Chronicler conceives 
of Divine Necessity in human history as the work 
of the personal God and not of a machinelike Fate 
of the Greeks, he seeks to justify the visitations 
sent upon Israel. In the first place, he stresses the 
idea of personal responsibility. He follows and re- 
peats {II Chron. 25:4) the principle established in 
Deuteronomy (24:16) that "the fathers shall not 
be put to death for the children, neither shall the 


children be put to death for the fathers; every man 
shall be put to death for his own sin/' a conception 
which appears about the same time in Greece too. 
But the principle of collective responsibility re- 
mained active in Greece, except for Athens, with 
regard to political crimes. 28 In Judaism, the Book 
of Kings still presents the hand of God visiting the 
sins of the fathers upon their children and striking 
peoples for the transgressions of their kings. 
Jehoiachin is carried away and Judah is destroyed 
in 597 "for the sins of Manasseh" who had reigned 
almost fifty years before (II Kings 24:3; Jer. 15:4). 
The Chronicler assumes that Manasseh had re- 
ceived a due punishment from the Assyrians, who 
led him about in fetters and held on to him by a 
hook thrust into his nostrils (II Chron. &3:11). On 
the other hand, the destruction of Jerusalem in 
587 is explained in Kings (II Kings 24:20) as an 
expression of God's anger against the last king, 
Zedekiah. The Chronicler adds that "all the chiefs 
of the priests, and the people, trangressed very 
greatly after all the abominations of the nations; 
and they polluted the house of the Lord which He 
had hallowed in Jerusalem" (H Chron. 36:14) . The 
Syrian invasion in the reign of Joash is a judgment 
on the people, "because they had forsaken the 
Lord, the God of their fathers" (II Chron. 24:24). 


The invasion of Shishak happened l>ecause all 
Israel had transgressed along with King Rehoboam 
(II Chron. 12:1). Consequently, the deliverance 
from Sennacherib is caused by the reconciliation of 
the people with God, and the author is fond of 
associating the people with the king in religious 
reformations (I Chron. 13:4; II Chron. 30:4f.). 

This conception of personal responsibility for 
transgression explains the role of the prophets in 
Chronicles, Herodotus uses the Oriental theme of 
the wise counselor to show how man in his blind- 
ness neglects prudent advice and runs to his doom. 
The Qironicler knows that God sent His prophets 
"because He had compassion on His people" (II 
Chron. 36:15); but they mocked His messengers 
and despised His words. So the culprit was fully 
conscious of the culpability of his deed and duly 
warned, a proviso which later tahnudic jurispru- 
dence requires for legal conviction and punishment 
of a capital offender. Thus, warned by God, the 
wicked kings sinned with malice and God's wrath 
was fully justified. Accordingly, the Chronicler's 
standard in judging the ancient kings is their obedi- 
ence to the Divine Message sent through the 
prophets. Jerusalem was destroyed because Israel 
scoffed at the warnings of the prophets. The Temple 
wm rebuilt by Cyrus, in order that the Word of the 


Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might he accom- 
plished (II Chron. 36:22). This, "the Chronicle of 
the whole of sacred history," as Jerome calls it, leads 
to the Restoration under Persian rule. When the ad- 
versaries of Jerusalem frustrate the building of the 
Temple, King Darius intervenes, and the Jews dedi- 
cate the sanctuary and prosper "through the 
prophesying of Haggai . . . and Zechariah" (Ezra 

In keeping with ancient historiography, the re- 
cital becomes fuller when the compiler approaches 
his own time. But some features of the latter part 
of his work are peculiar. In the first place, we note 
that while the author considers Nehemiah's days as 
being in the past (Neh. 12:47), he does not con- 
tinue the narrative until his own time but ends 
with the account of Nehemiah^s measures which 
concluded the Restoration in 432 B.C.E. In the same 
way, Herodotus (and other Greek historians in the 
fifth century) did not deal with the events after the 
Persian wars. 29 Again, while for the pre-exilic 
period the Chronicler refers to many sources, for 
the Persian epoch he gives hardly anything other 
than a reproduction of official records: lists, letters 
and memoranda of royal administration, memo- 
rials of Ezra and of Nehemiah. He scarcely pro- 
vides notes of Kis own for a chronological and 


logical framework. And, while he freely passes 
judgment on ancient persons and times, he refrains 
from expressing his personal views in the account 
of the Persian period. One is reminded of Greek 
logograptu of the fifth century who, as an ancient 
critic says, repeated "the written records that they 
found preserved in temples or secular buildings in 
the form in which they found them, neither adding 
nor taking away anything." 30 

This dependence on source material leads, quite 
naturally, to some confusion. As the Chronicler 
confuses, for instance, Darius I with Darius II, he 
places a dossier referring to Xerxes and Artaxerxes 
I before their predecessor Darius I. The Chronicler 
quotes Ezra's and Nehemiah's accounts in their 
own words* a feature which involved the change 
from the third person to the first person and vice 
t?ersa. This device served to authenticate the narra- 
tive and came into historical writing from the 
diplomatic style, where exactness of quotation was 
absolutely necessary. In Egypt the story of the war 
of King Kamose in the sixteenth century B.C.E., 
or the epic of the victory of Rameses II at Kadesh, 
c. 1300 B.C.E*, presents the same change from a 
subjective account to objective praise by the hero 
of his own deeds. 81 The so-called "Letters to God 
Assur" in Assyrian historiography likewise show 


the use of the third person when the king is spoken 
of in the introduction composed by a scribe, while 
in the body of the text the king speaks in the first 
person. 88 In a Persian tract composed after the 
conquest of Babylon in 538 B.C.E., the so-called Cyrus 
cylinder, the author relates the evil-doings of Na- 
bonidus, the last king of Babylon, and the conquest 
of the city by Cyrus. Then, without any transition, 
exactly as in Ezra-Nehemiah, the author introduces 
Cyrus's proclamation, beginning "I am Cyrus," 
which gives Cyrus's own account of the events. 50 
When the Chronicler quotes documents verbatim, 
he again follows the style of chancelleries. He in- 
troduces even in his narratives of pre-exilic history 
such compositions couched in official form, e.g., a 
circular communication of King Hezekiah (II 
Chron. 30) and even a letter of the prophet Elijah 
(nChron. 21:12)." 

Ezra's and Nehemiah's prayers, the national con- 
fession of sins, the covenants made with God under 
the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah are presented 
as proof that there is a difference between the 
wicked Jerusalem of the kings and the new Israel 
which decided to follow the way of righteousness. 
That accounts for the blessing of the present state 
under the protection of the Persian kings. The Tem- 
ple is restored "according to the commandment of 


the God of Israel, and according to the decree of 
Cyrus, and Darius; and Artaxerxes king of Persia 9 * 
(Ezra 6:14), 

The whole conception of the Chronicler shows 
that he wrote when Persian rule seemed destined 
for eternity and the union between the altar in 
Jerusalem and the throne of Susa seemed to he 
natural and indestructible. The Chronicler wrote 
before Alexander the Great, that is, in the first half 
of the fourth century. Accordingly, the tendency of 
his work is to recommend a kind of political quiet- 
ism which should please the court of Susa as well 
as the High Priest's mansion in Jerusalem. The 
idea of the Messianic age which was destined to 
come after the overthrow of the Persian world 
power, finds no place in the work of the Chronicler. 
Armies are superfluous for Israel, the Jews need not 
fight when the Lord is with them; the Chronicler 
does not tire of stressing this conception. But "the 
Lord is with you while you are with Him'* (H 
Chron. 15:2). Zedekiah was punished and Jeru- 
salem destroyed not only because the king did evil 
HIM! did not give heed to Jeremiah's words, but also 
because "he rebelled against King Nebuchadnez- 
zar, who had made him swear by God." That is 
taken from Eaddel (17:13) but the lesson could 

hardly escape the attention of the Chronicler's 
readers, subjects of the Persian king. 

The Chronicler's historical work, Attic pottery 
unearthed in Palestine, Jewish coins bearing a 
Divine Image, universalism and exclusiveness, all 
these together create a picture of Jewish life after 
the Restoration rather different from what is con- 
veyed by the conventional cliches. They indicate 
that life was more vivid, more diversified than the 
rules of conduct as formulated in Scripture might 



A postexilic oracle included in the Book of Isaiah 
(11:11) promises the return of the Diaspora from 
Elam, Assyria, Babylonia, Lower and Upper Egypt, 
from North Syria and "from the islands of the sea/* 
This Jewish Diaspora encountered everywhere the 
Hellenic Diaspora. Greek trading stations existed in 
the fifth and fourth centuries, for example, at 
Ugarit (near modern Lattakie) and at the mouth 
of the Orontes in Syria. 85 When in 586 Jewish ref- 
ugees from Palestine, Jeremiah among them, went 
to "Tahpanhes" in the Egyptian Delta, they 
entered a settlement of Greek mercenaries, estab- 
lished here (Daphne) by Psammetichus. 88 Pay- 
ments of rations listed in a Babylonian account be- 
tween 595 and 570 B.C.E. were provided not only to 
King Joiachin [Jehoiachin] and numerous other 
men of Judah in exile, but also to Ionian carpenters 
and shipbuilders. 87 As cuneiform business docu- 
ments of the Persian period show, the Jews in the 
Babylonian Diaspora rubbed shoulders with men 
from India and Armenia and Turkestan and, of 


course, Lydians and lonians. 88 When later Greek 
authors supposed that Pythagoras, that ancient 
sage of Samoa, was indebted not only to Egypt and 
Chaldea, but to Jewish wisdom, too, when a later 
Jewish author thought that the Greek sages had 
learned loftier conceptions of God from Moses, they 
were probably wrong, but the surmise does not any 
longer appear absurd in the light of recent dis- 
coveries. One may fancy Ezekiel talking with 
Pythagoras in Babylon; they speak of Homer and 
of Moses. What a topic for an Imaginary Conver- 
sation in Landor's fashion ! 

But our information concerning the Diaspora in 
the Persian period is scanty and accidental. To be 
sure, we still have numerous records from Baby- 
lonia, written between 464 and 404 B.C.E., with 
many Jewish names. 38 But since these tablets are 
business documents of one pagan firm in Nippur, 
in southern Babylonia, we do not really learn any- 
thing substantial of the life of the Jews from these 
contracts and receipts. Nevertheless, these archives 
show that the golah of 597 and 587 still remained 
on the same place where the exiled had been 
settled by Nebuchadnezzar, namely, "by the river 
Chebar" (Ez. 1:1), which is the "large canal" 
of the cuneiform tablets, a watercourse on which 
Nippur was situated. The Jews in the documents 


often bear Babylonian and Persian names, some of 
them combined with the names of pagan deities. 
For instance, the father of a Hanana is called Ardi- 
Gula, that is, "servant of [the Goddess] Gula." But 
about seventy per cent of the Jews had genuine 
Hebrew names. The Jews in the district of Nippur 
were for the most part farmers; but they were also 
tax collectors and royal officials; they held military 
tenures and transacted business with the Baby- 
lonians and the Persians. A Jewish claimant op- 
poses a Babylonian merchant house "in the judicial 
assembly of Nippur." 

There were many Jewish settlements in Egypt, 
too; for instance, in the Delta, near Pelusium, at 
Memphis, and in upper Egypt. The Egyptian 
Diaspora was pre-exilic. Even before the Exile an 
oracle signifies five cities in the land of Egypt that 
speak the language of Canaan and swear to the 
Lord of Hosts (Is. 19:18), and the Second Isaiah 
(49:12) mentions the Jews in the land of Sinim, 
that is, Syene, at the first cataract of the Nile, at 
the southern border of Egypt. To this place Jewish 
mercenaries were sent by one of their kings in the 
beginning of the sixth century to help the Pharaoh. 
Guardian of the Ethiopian boundary, "the Jewish 
force" came into Persian service after Cambysee* 
conquest of Egypt (525 B.C.E.), and obeyed the 


Pharaohs again after the defection of Egypt in 
404. Numerous documents in Aramaic of the fifth 
century, belonging to this military settlement, have 
been unearthed at Elephantine. 40 

The "Jewish force" (as the regiment is officially 
styled) was divided into companies, the captains 
of which bear Babylonian or Persian names; a 
Persian was "the chief of the force." The settlers 
received pay and rations (barley, lentils, etc.) from 
the royal treasury. But the colony was civilian in 
its way of life. The Jews at Elephantine bought 
and sold their tenures, transacted business, de- 
fended their claims in civil courts, although every- 
one, even women, was styled as belonging to the 
regiment. The Jews dealt with military colonists of 
other nations settled in the neighborhood, as well 
as with Egyptians. There were mixed marriages. 
Independently of the military organization the 
Jews formed a religious community of the kind 
later, in the Hellenistic period, called politeujna. A 
president "with his colleagues" represented the 
community which was gathered in "assembly" 
whenever wanted. The president was also the 
treasurer of the local Temple of the national God, 
whom these Jews called "Yahu" and regarded as 
"the God of Heaven." Likewise, their system of 
sacrifices and the terms referring to them were the 


same as in the Bible: holocaust, meal offering, in- 
cense; they offered libations and immolated sheep, 
oxen and goats. They observed the Passover. Their 
faith was rather homely and plain. They suggested 
in a letter that their enemy was killed, "and the 
dogs tore off the anklets from his legs," because 
they had prayed for it to the God of Heaven and 
fasted "with our wives and our children" in sack- 
cloth. They did not doubt that merit before God 
may be obtained with expensive sacrifices, and 
would hardly appreciate the prophetic word that 
God desires mercy and not sacrifices (Hos. 6:6). But 
equally, they did not suspect that their place of 
worship was a violation of Divine Law proclaimed 
in Deuteronomy, which forbids altars and immola- 
tions outside of the one chosen place at Jerusalem. 
With the same "provincial" naivete', they uttered 
blessings in the name of "Yahu and Khnum." 

While the religion of the Jews of Elephantine 
was primitive their business activity was highly 
modern. They wrote, and probably talked, not He- 
brew but Aramaic, which had become the com- 
mon and official language of the Persian Empire. 
Accordingly, while contemporary demotic docu- 
ments reflect Egyptian law, and while Mesopota- 
mian settlers near Aleppo (Syria) and at Gezer 
(Palestine) continued to draw cuneiform deeds in 


harmony with the Babylonian system,* 1 the Aramaic 
records from Elephantine manifest the formation 
and development of a new common law of the 
Levant. The form of these instruments is that of a 
declaration made before witnesses and reproduced 
in direct speech; this is modeled on Egyptian 
formularies. The same form is used in an Aramaic 
lease agreement of 515 B.C.E. entered into in Egypt 
by two parties not of Jewish origin. Some stipu- 
lations in business documents from Elephantine 
reproduce Egyptian formulae also, e.g., the aban- 
donment of the claims to a ceded property. But the 
term "hate** for separation of spouses is Babylonian 
and biblical (Deut. 21:15), although it was also 
borrowed by the Egyptians. Babylonian too are 
the contracts of renunciation arising from a pre- 
vious decision of the court, the legal term for "in- 
stituting a suit" and the standard of weight. This 
syncretistic common law was built up partly by 
precedents set by the Persian king's judges, partly 
by way of customary agreements, The Persian court 
adopted, for instance, the Egyptian practice of im- 
posing an oath (formulated by the judge) upon the 
party in support of the claim when there was no 
other evidence, even when the litigants were of 
different nationalities, e.g., a Jew and a Persian. 
Everybody was required, of course, to swear by his 


own deity; when a Jewess became the wife of an 
Egyptian, she was supposed to follow the status of 
her husband and she took oath by an Egyptian god- 
dess. On the other hand, polygamy, allowed in 
Jewish law, was prohibited in marriage contracts of 
Elephantine by a stipulation agreed upon by the 
parties and guaranteed by a fine. While Egyptian 
marriage was based on mere consensus, the Jews at 
Elephantine still regarded a union as valid only 
when the bride's father received from the groom a 
"marriage price" (mohar). But this conveyance of 
rights to the husband became here an antiquated 
formality. The new common law established an al- 
most complete equality between spouses. Both had 
the right to divorce at his or her pleasure, provided 
the declaration of "hating" was made "in the con- 
gregation," The power to divorce was given to the 
bride in Egyptian marriage contracts, but it was 
limited to the husband alone in Jewish (and Baby- 
lonian ) law. Egyptian too was the status of woman 
with regard to her legal capacity; married or not, 
she was able at Elephantine to conduct business, 
hold property in her own right and resort to law 
about it. No less surprising was the stipulation that 
either spouse would inherit from the other when 
there were no children. Thus, the Aramaic papyri 
from Elephantine of the fifth century B.c.E. are the 


earliest evidence we have for the transformation of 
the Jewish behavior in the Dispersion. Living on 
equal terms with the natives, transacting business 
with peoples of various races, intermarrying, the 
Diaspora began to diverge from the course followed 
at Jerusalem. 

But living together with other people rarely con- 
tinues untroubled. Although the priest of the 
Egyptian god Khnum was a neighbor of the Jewish 
sanctuary at Elephantine for many decades, in 411 
the Egyptian clergy bribed the Persian governor to 
order the Jewish temple destroyed. One may 
doubt whether that was really "the first anti- 
Semitic outbreak," as the action is now considered 
by historians* When we read the endless complaints 
of a certain Peteesi, an Egyptian (513 B.C.E.), about 
vexations he was forced to suffer from Egyptian 
priests on account of some litigation," we are 
rather prepared to believe that the conflict of 411 
at Elephantine was a local incident, and not a 
symptom of general anti-Semitism. When the Per- 
sian governor refused to allow the reconstruction 
of the temple, the Jews of Elephantine sent an 
appeal to Jerusalem. But the. existence of a temple 
outside Zion could hardly please the authorities at 
Jerusalem. Consequently, in 408, the Jews of Ele- 
phantine wrote to Bagoas, the Persian governor of 


Judea, and to the sons of Sanballat, governor of 
Samaria, hinting also at a forthcoming bribe. The 
addressees prepared a memorandum recommending 
to the satrap of Egypt the reestablishment of the 
temple, without animal offerings, however : a com- 
promise which would please both the Egyptians, 
who at this time worshiped almost every animal, 
and the Jerusalemites, who in this manner reduced 
the altar of Elephantine to a lower rank. 

But there were again intrigues and counterin- 
trigues, bribes and favors at the court of the Persian 
satrap of Egypt; and since, toward the end of the 
fifth century, Egypt rebelled against Persia, the tem- 
ple at Elephantine was never rebuilt, although the 
Jewish military settlement continued and was 
ultimately taken over by Alexander the Great. 



The Persian Empire fell in 333. When Alexander 
the Great proceeded down the coast of Syria to- 
ward Egypt, most peoples and cities on his route, 
Jerusalem among them, readily submitted to 
the Macedonian. The meeting of Jewish deputies, 
sent to offer the surrender of the Holy City, with 
the world conqueror later became a choice topic 
of Jewish legend. In fact, the Macedonian, who con- 
sidered himself the legitimate heir of the Persian 
kings, here as elsewhere simply accepted and con- 
firmed the statutes and privileges granted by his 
Iranian predecessors. But an accidental order of 
Alexander's deeply influenced the history of Pales- 

The city of Samaria revolted in 332, and the 
king, having taken it, settled Macedonians there. 
This punishment, inflicted on Samaria, brought 
about the break between Judah and Ephraim. 
Captured by the Assyrians in 722, the city of 


Samaria had become a military colony. The men 
from Babylonia and northern Syria transplanted 
here, brought along their own gods, such as the god 
of pestilence, Nergal of Cutha, who at the same 
time appeared in Sidon, a city also resettled by the 
Assyrians after the rebellion of 677. Being polythe- 
ists, the settlers in due course adopted the deity of 
the land in which they dwelt and learned to wor- 
ship the God of Israel with great zeal. Since Sargon 
in 722 deported only the higher classes of the dis- 
trict of Samaria, the countryside was not denuded 
of the original population. Sargon himself refers to 
the tribute imposed on this remnant of Israel. 

The newcomers intermingled and intermarried 
with the former inhabitants of the land of Samaria 
and accepted their religion. In 586, men of Shiloh 
and Samaria came and worshiped at the ruined site 
of the Temple of Jerusalem. In 520 the Samaritans 
claimed a share in the rebuilding of this Temple. 
As already noted, in 408 the Jews at Elephantine 
wrote to the leaders in both Jerusalem and Samaria 
as to coreligionists. Still later there were people of 
Ephraim who celebrated the Passover at Jerusalem 
(II Chron. 34:6) . It seems that the conversion of the 
heathen immigrants to the service of the God of 
Israel was complete and that both Samaria and 
Jerusalem worshiped the same God with the same 

rites in the fourth century B.C.E. There is no men- 
tion of any pagan cult among the Samaritans. Ac- 
cordingly, prophets in Jerusalem expected the 
redemption of both "prisoners of hope" (Zech. 
9:13), Judah and Ephraim. The conflict between 
the two cities under Persian rule was primarily a 
political one, Samaria opposed the rebuilding of 
the walls of Jerusalem because the resurrected 
capital in the south would be a natural rival of the 
northern fortress. In the same way, the Assyrian 
settlers in Sidon, who became completely assimi- 
lated with the natives, inherited their quarrel with 
Tyre, another Phoenician capital. 

But when Alexander planted Macedonian colo- 
nists in the city of Samaria, he destroyed the fusion 
between "the force at Samaria" and the country- 
side. The new masters of the stronghold did not 
know anything about the God of Israel. They did 
not care for Nergal either. They were at home 
rather in Athens, where in the third century B.C.E. 
a pagan association crowned a certain "Samaritan" 
as its benefactor. If the new inhabitants were in- 
clined to adopt some elements of the religion of the 
former settlers, they could hardly succeed because 
the God of Israel did not tolerate any rival. 

It often happened that when a Greek colony was 
established, native villages under its control formed 


a union around an ancestral sanctuary. Following 
the same pattern, the countryside of (now Macedo- 
nian) Samaria constituted an organization, in 
Greek style, "Sidonians of Shechem," for the pur- 
pose of serving the God of Israel. 43 Shechem, the 
most ancient capital and the most sacred site of 
Israel, hecame the natural center of the confeder- 
ation. The name "Sidonians," that is, "Canaanites," 
was probably chosen in opposition to the new- 
comers; it emphasized the fact that the members of 
the League were aboriginal inhabitants of Canaan. 
The geographical term "Samaritans" was appropri- 
ated by the Macedonian intruders, and the religious 
term "Israel" now belonged to Jerusalem. The 
descendants of the Assyrian settlers, men like San- 
ballat, Nehemiah's adversary, who had been the 
leaders in Palestine for four centuries and who 
were now dispossessed, could neither accept the 
predominance of the Macedonian colony nor be- 
come a dependency of Jerusalem. They repeated to 
the Jews, "we seek your God as you do" (Ezra 
4:2), but were not prepared to recognize the 
demands of Jerusalem that the common Deity may 
not be rightfully worshiped away from the summit 
of Zion. As the Chronicler emphasized (II Chron. 
30:10), such claims were received with derision in 
the north. 


The new union around Shechem, therefore, 

founded its own sanctuary. It was consecrated to 
the God of both Jerusalem and Shechem, and stood 
on the summit of Gerizim, overlooking Sheehem, on 
the site where the Chosen People were commanded 
to "set the blessing," according to the precept of 
Deuteronomy (11:29). Deuteronomy was origi- 
nally a Jerusalemite book, published in 621 B.C.E., 
but since 722 B.C.E. there had been no center of the 
religion of the fathers outside Jerusalem, and the 
worshipers of God, in Samaria or elsewhere, had to 
seek guidance at Jerusalem. The choice of Gerizim 
shows the dependence of the Shechemites on Jeru- 
salem in spiritual matters and, at the same time, it 
proves that only the pride of the former Assyrian 
aristocrats, loath to acknowledge the supremacy 
of the southern rival, was responsible for the 
foundation of the Samaritan temple, and, conse- 
quently, for the break between Judah and Ephraim. 
The whole controversy between Jews and Samari- 
tans was now subordinated to the question : Which 
place was chosen by God for His inhabitation, Zion 
or Gerizim? Later propagandist inventions ob- 
scured the origin of the schism and confused its 
dating which, for this reason, remains controversial. 
The Samaritans glorified their temple by attribut- 
ing its founding to Alexander the Great. The Jews 


associated the separation with Nehemiah's expul- 
sion of a scion of the high-priestly family for his 
marriage to a Samaritan girl (Neh. 13:28). This 
combination provided a "rational" account for the 
schism, and conveniently branded the priesthood 
at Gerizim as illegitimate. But the Jewish tradition 
itself, repeated by Josephus, states that the Samari- 
tan temple was founded at the time of Alexander 
the Great, The fact that it did not receive any 
subvention from the Macedonian rulers, as well as 
the fact that it belonged not to Samaria but to "that 
foolish nation which dwells in Shechem" (as Ben 
Sira says), offers the definitive proof of its founda- 
tion after the Macedonian conquest. 

Jerusalem was situated far away from the main 
trade routes which crossed Palestine and ran along 
the coast. Thus, while the Greeks knew the Pales- 
tinian shore very well, no Greek writer before the 
time of Alexander the Great mentions the Jews, 
with the exception of Herodotus, who alludes to 
the circumcision practiced by "the Phoenicians and 
the Syrians of Palestine.* 5 But even after Alexander 
the Great, the first Greek authors who took 
cognizance of the Jews got their information from 
the Diaspora, from Jewish immigrants or Jewish 
soldiers in the service of Alexander and his suc- 
cessors. That is by no mean surprising. Why should 


a Greek author, at a time when the whole fabulous 
Orient was open to his inquiry, concentrate on a 
Lilliputian place in the arid mountains? Let us 
note, hy the way, that the first Greek book (by 
Aristotle's pupil Theophrastus) giving some exact 
information about Rome, appeared in 314-313 
B.C.E. Some years later another student of philoso- 
phy, Hecataeus of Abdera, who had accompanied 
Ptolemy I of Egypt in his Syrian campaign of 312 
B.C.E., published in a report of his journey the 
first Greek account of the Jews, based particularly 
on data given to the author by a Jewish priest 
who, in 312, accompanied the Ptolemaic army to 
Egypt." Hecataeus's narrative was used by Theo- 
phrastus, 45 while another pupil of Aristotle, Clear- 
chus, described what is probably a fictitious 
meeting between his master and a Jewish magician 
in Asia Minor. 4 * 

Let us consider the picture of the Jews as seen 
with Greek eyes at the end of the fourth century. 
For the reason just stated, a Greek writer must have 
had a particular motive to take an interest in the 
Jews. Now, the philosophers, and the school of 
Aristotle in particular, looked for empirical con- 
firmation of their social theories in the newly 
opened Orient. Similarly, the discovery of America 
was utilized by European scholars of the sixteenth 


century to identify the Red Indians with the lost 
Ten Tribes. Greek scholars of Alexander's time 
thought that the peoples untouched by the dis- 
solving influence of modern (that is, Greek) civi- 
lization must have conserved the purity of religion 
and the perfection of social organization which the 
philosophers attributed to man in a state of nature. 
On the other hand, the Greeks knew that in the 
Orient knowledge was the monopoly of the priestly 
caste. Having discovered a people led by priests and 
obeying the Law coming directly from the Divinity, 
the Greeks ranged the Jews beside the Indian Brah- 
mans and Persian Magi. The Jews are a "philosophi- 
cal race," says Theophrastus; they descend from the 
Indian philosophers, says Clearchus. Just as a Greek 
author (Megasthenes) claimed that the doctrines of 
the ancient Greek philosophers concerning nature 
had been formulated by the Indians, other writers 
ascribed the origins of philosophy to the Jews. 
Clearchus presents a Jewish sage who furnishes 
Aristotle with the experimental proof of the Pla- 
tonic doctrine of immortality. Some decades later, 
Hermippus, another follower of Aristotle, mentions 
the (supposed) Jewish belief in the souPs im- 
mortality as a well-known fact, and adds that 
Pythagoras borrowed from the Jews and the Thra- 
cians his opinions about it. Since the Jews named 


their Deity "God of Heaven," they provided the 
philosophers with the desired proof that natural 
theology of mankind had identified God with the 
heavens. Likewise, monotheism, as well as the 
absence of divine images, agreed with the philo- 
sophical conceptions. Other data was interpreted 
accordingly. For instance, Theophrastus states that 
the Jews celebrate their festivals at night in con- 
templation of the stars {the order of heavenly 
bodies was for the philosophers the most important 
proof against atheism) and discourse about the 
Divine. In the same way, Hecataeus ascribes to the 
Egyptian priests philosophical conversations dur- 
ing the banquets where wine was not served. 

The political organization of the Jews was viewed 
from the same standpoint, as the realization of an 
ideal state, governed by the Sages, the philosophers 
according to Plato and the priests according to the 
Palestinians. The Torah is presented as a narrative 
of the settlement of the Jews in Palestine and as 
their constitution. Moses, as lawgiver, could estab- 
lish his system only after the conquest; so, accord- 
ing to Hecataeus, he had conquered the Promised 
Land and founded Jerusalem. As in Sparta, his 
system is based on military virtues of bravery, en- 
durance and discipline. As is fit for the perfect 
state, the legislator forbade the sale of the land 


distributed among the Jews of Palestine in order to 
prevent the concentration of wealth and its sinister 
consequence, the decrease of population. This 
Greek interpretation of Lev. 25:23 clearly shows 
that Hecataeus's inquiry was oriented by his philo- 
sophic aims; he elicited from his Jewish informants 
answers which could serve his theory. For this 
reason it is a very delicate task to appreciate the 
earliest Greek records as testimony regarding the 
state of Judaism in Alexander's time. When Heca- 
taeus affirms that the priests receive a tithe of the 
income of the people, he idealizes the realities. 
When he adds that the priests administer public 
affairs, he surely gives a one-sided view of the sub- 
ject But when he emphatically states that the 
High Priest was regarded as the mouthpiece of God 
and messenger of divine oracles, we suspect that 
the Greek writer attributes to the Jews the be- 
havior they should have in his opinion, in order 
to represent the ideal scheme of the philosophical 
commonwealth. Hecataeus's High Priest, by the 
way, is chosen as the most able leader among the 

Some features stressed in the Greek records are 
worth noting. The importance of the priesthood 
and the role of the High Priest in Jerusalem, the 
obstinacy of the Jews in defense of the Law and the 

slander of their neighbors and foreign visitors with 
regard to antialien sentiments of the Jews, already 
point in Heeataeus's narrative to characteristic 
features of Hellenistic Jewry. We learn that already 
before 300 B.C.E. the Jews in Palestine did not 
tolerate pagan shrines and altars on the holy soil 
and that* at the same time, the Jews in the Diaspora 
freely scoffed at the superstitions of the Gentiles. 
This attitude was inevitable because the Jews 
were in possession of the Truth. They might have 
said to the pagans: We claim liberty for ourselves 
in accordance with your principles and refuse it 
to you in accordance with our principles. In the 
polytheist world of Hellenism, where all beliefs 
were admitted as different refractions of the same 
eternal light, the Jewish claim to the oneness of 
the Divine Revelation must have appeared as a 

Nevertheless, Alexander and his successors ac- 
cepted the Jews among the citizens of the new 
settlements founded in the East. When the ex- 
periment of founding commonwealths of Greek 
type in the Orient succeeded, later descendants of 
the settlers became "Aristocrats" but the first 
settlers were no more respected by their contem- 
poraries than the passengers of the Mayflower were 
by the Englishmen of 1620. The conquest of Alex- 


ander, welding East and West into a single eco- 
nomic whole, brought wealth to Greece and to many 
Oriental towns. Why should a craftsman from 
Athens or a moneylender from Babylon enroll in 
the list of settlers of a new city far away, let us say 
Europos on the Euphrates? As the kings needed 
cities to safeguard the military communications 
and as strongholds against the indigenous popula- 
tion, settlers were at a premium. For instance, 
Alexander transferred some contingents from (still 
Assyrian) Samaria to Egypt, where they received al- 
lotments of land. There is no reason to suspect 
Joephus*s statement that the early Hellenistic 
rulers gave the Jews equal status with the Macedo- 
nians and Greeks who settled in the new colonies. 
He fails to make it clear that these privileges were 
individual and did not bear on the position of 
Jewry as a community in the new colony. This was 
a point on which hinged the later struggle between 
the Greeks and the Jews in Hellenistic cities. We do 
not know how Alexander and his successors rec- 
onciled Jewish exclusiveness with the obligations 
of the Greek citizen. Probably, the antinomy was 
solved in each case empirically. There were Jews, 
like the magician spoken of by Clearchus, who "not 
only spoke Greek, but had the soul of a Greek," 
and thus were inclined to mutual tolerance. Some- 

times the king exempted the Jews; thus Alexander 
pardoned the Jewish soldiers who had refused to 
build a heathen temple in Babylon, and Seleucus 
I ordered money to be given for oil to those Jews, 
citizens of Antiochia, who were unwilling to use 
pagan oil. As oil was given by the "gymnasiarchs" 
for anointing during athletic games, the notice 
seems to imply that in Greek cities of the Diaspora, 
Jewish youth about 300 B.c.E. already took part in 
exercises of the "gymnasia," naked like their 
Hellenic comrades. 47 Physical training was the 
foundation of Greek life and mentality in all Greek 
cities, and the gymnasia became the centers of 
Greek intellectual activity and the principal in- 
strument of Hellenization. Through the palaestra, 
by way of sports, the Jewish settlers became rec- 
ognized members of the community. They learned 
to take pride in the city long before Paul pro- 
claimed at Jerusalem his double title of honor, "I 
am a Jew, a Tarsian of Cilicia, citizen of no mean 
city." And conversely, the Jews of Alexandria could 
not but imagine that Alexander had become a 
worshiper of the true God at the time of his founds 
ing of their city and had brought the bones of the 
prophet Jeremiah to Alexandria as her palladium, 48 



After Alexander's death (324 B.C.E.) wars between 
his generals ended in the dismemberment of his 
empire. After 301 there were three great powers 
governed by Macedonian dynasties: Asia (that is 
substantially Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia and a 
large portion of Asia Minor) under the sway of 
the Seleucids, Egypt of the Ptolemies, and the realm 
of Macedonia in Europe. Thus, the political unity 
of the world where the Jews lived was broken. 
Even the Roman Empire did not re-establish the 
lost oneness, since an important Jewry remained 
in the Parthian kingdom, outside the laws of the 

Palestine became a dominion of Egypt but was 
reconquered by Antiochus III of Asia in 200 B.C.E. 
Sin&e the government of both the Ptolemies and 
the Seleucids rested on the same political princi- 
ples, we may view a& an entity the period of Ptole- 
maic and Seleucid domination over Jerusalem until 
the Maccabean struggle, that is, some 125 years 


between 301 and 175 B.C.E. The district of Judea, 
called "the nation of Jews," under the Seleucids, 
was still a very small part of the province of Syria.** 
When a traveler passed the Jordan or the town of 
Modein in the north, or went south beyond Beth- 
zur, or toward the west descended into the coastal 
plain, he left the Jewish territory. Frontier guards, 
for instance, at Antipatris, customhouses, custom 
duties for export and import reminded the Jeru- 
salemite of this fact. Thus, even in Palestine, the 
political term "Jew" did not include all the re- 
ligious adherents of the Temple on Zion. With 
respect to religion there were many Jews and 
Jewries elsewhere, in Galilee or in Trans- Jordan 
or, for instance, where the powerful clan of the 
Tobiads was located. But politically these were not 
considered "Jews." The term "Jew" applied only 
to those "who lived around the Temple of Jeru- 
salem," and so a Greek historian calls them. 50 Jeru- 
salem was the only "city" of the Jews; other 
settlements in Judea were politically "villages." 
Judea continued to be a self-governing unit; there 
was no royal governor in Jerusalem, although the 
citadel of the Holy City was garrisoned by royal 
troops. The Jews, too, had to furnish contingents to 
the royal forces; Jewish soldiers are mentioned in 
Alexander's army, a Jewish regiment of cavalry 


under Ptolemy. It may be that fortresses on the 
frontier, such as that at Beth-zur, excavated re- 
cently, were occupied by native forces; about 200 
B.C.E. the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt by the 
Jewish authorities. 

In 200 the Jewish militia helped Antiochus III to 
dislodge the Egyptian garrison from the citadel of 
Jerusalem. But more important for the central 
government was the collection of taxes, such as the 
poll tax, or taxes on houses or gate tolls, etc., to 
which was added the tribute, that is, the annual 
payment of a lump sum by the Jewish common- 
wealth as such. In the third century Judea, as a 
province of the Egyptian Empire, was part of the 
highly complicated system of planned economy 
that was built up by the Ptolemies. Like all natives 
of the province, "Syria and Phoenicia," the Jews 
had to declare their movable property and cattle 
for the purpose of taxation. Likewise, the Ptolemies 
introduced their subtle system of collecting the 
revenue by tax farmers. The Ptolemies favored the 
local notables as farmers of revenue, since in this 
way the native aristocracy had a stake in the 
Ptolemaic domination. 

As regards self-government, Jerusalem was an 
"aristocratic" commonwealth. The "council of 
Elders" was the ruling body, composed of laymen 

and priests. But the aristocracy as a social class was 
priestly, just as in Hellenistic Egypt. When Antio- 
chus III granted exemption from personal taxes to 
the upper class in Jerusalem, he named the 
council of Elders, the officers of the Temple with 
respect to their functions, and the sacerdotal caste 
as such. The intermediary between the royal 
government and the Jews was the High Priest, ap- 
pointed by the king. Practically, the office was 
hereditary and was held for life. The High Priests, 
responsible primarily for the tribute, also became 
accustomed under Egyptian domination to farm 
the other taxes. In this way, the High, Priest be- 
came the political head of the nation as well. 
About 190, Ben Sira spoke of the High Priest 
Simeon in terms appropriate to a prince: he was 
the glory of his people, in his time the Temple 
was fortified, he protected his people. As to the 
common people, ihey were sometimes summoned 
to the Temple court to hear official reports on the 
situation and to acclaim the official speaker. Never- 
theless, as Ben Sira shows, the "assembly of Elders* 9 
and even the popular "assembly in the gate" con- 
tinued to regulate social life and still had judicial 
and administrative functions. 

While politically the situation of the "nation of 
the Jews*' was essentially the same in 175 B.C.E. as 


had been that of the district Yehud two centuriei 
earlier, there was a decisive change as to the state 
of civilization.* 1 There was a mixture of populatior 
and language and a diffusion of the foreign (Helle- 
nic) culture unparalleled in the Persian period, 
To begin with, there were now many Hellenic cities 
in Palestine. The Jewish territory was practically 
in the midst of Hellenic cities: Ascalon, Akko 
(Ptolemais), Joppa (Jaffa), Apollonia and others 
on the coast; Samaria, Scythopolis and Gadara in 
the north; Pella, Gerasa, Philadelphia (Rabbath- 
Arnana) beyond the river Jordan; and Marisa in 
the south. Here the Jews came into contact with 
Greek men, institutions, arts, soldiers from Aetolia 
or Macedonia, Greek poetasters and sculptors like 
the creator of the fine statue of the nude Aphrodite 
found at Carmel recently. They could see in Marisa, 
for instance, the Greek system of paved streets 
forming quadrangular blocks with a large open 
place at the main street, enlarged by colonnades, 
a view quite different from the maze that consti- 
tuted an Oriental town. In Trans-Jordan there was 
a mixed settlement of Jewish and Greek soldiers 
under the command of a Jewish sheikh. There, in 
259 B.C.E., a Greek from Cnidus in the service of 
tfeis Aeikh sold a Babylonian girl to a Greek 
traveler from Egypt. Among the guarantors and 


witnesses were a son of one Ananias and a Macedo- 
nian "of the cavalrymen of Tobias." 

The Jewish territory itself was crowded with 
Greek officers, civil agents and traders, as the 
papyri show. Greek residents loaned money, bought 
and sold slaves, oil, wine, honey, figs, dates, while 
wheat was exported from Galilee. Greek caravans 
came up to Jerusalem too. On the other hand, the 
kings had inherited from the Persian monarchs 
grown lands, and there were in Judea estates be- 
longing to royal courtiers. It happened, of course, as 
a papyrus tells, that a Greek usurer was driven out 
of a Jewish village when he tried to collect money 
for a debt; but, as this instance shows, even the 
village could not avoid the Greek commercial 
penetration. Another important factor was that 
now a foreign language, Greek, became that of 
business and administration. Even in the villages 
there must have been persons able to draft a con- 
tract in Greek, or to write a request in the style 
required for a Greek petition. 

The influence of a new, foreign and technolog- 
ically superior civilization acted, as usual, as a 
powerful dissolvent which destroyed the traditional 
discipline of life. The author of the Book of 
Jubilees 52 gives us insight into the moral situation 
of Palestinian Jewry after one and a half centuries 


of intensive contact with the Greeks. He fulminates 
against the evil generation who forgot the com- 
mandments and sabbaths. He repeatedly warns 
against associating with the pagans or eating with 
them. He lets Abraham implore his sons "not to 
take to themselves wives from the daughters of 
Canaan," nor to make idols and worship them. He 
even speaks of children of Israel "who will not 
circumcise their sons," and stresses the prohibition 
against appearing naked, that is, participating in 
Greek athletic games. It is particularly notable that 
he claims that the commandments were already 
observed by the Patriarchs and stresses again and 
again that ritual prescriptions are eternal ordi- 
nances. In fact, "every mouth speaking iniquity" 
already began to deny the perpetual force of the 
biblical regulations. As Esau says in the Book of 
Jubilees, "neither the children of men nor the 
beasts of the earth" have any oath valid forever: 
an echo of Greek philosophical criticism. Another 
contemporary writer, Ben Sira, speaks of the Jews 
who are ashamed of the Torah and its regulations, 
of ungodly men who have forsaken the Law of the 
Most High God. At the same time, probably un- 
known to Ben Sira, in Rome another adversary of 
Hellenism, Cato the Censor, applied himself to the 
reformation of the lax morals of Hellenized Rome 


where the newly coined word pergr<iecari, "act as a 
Greek," was used to signify the licentious way of 
life. But Cato surpassed the Jewish moralists in his 
antialien feelings. Ben Sira knows that wisdom has 
gained possession of every people and every nation, 
and he considers the physician ordained by God. 
Cato insists that Greek physicians came to Rome 
with the purpose of killing Romans by treatment, 
and under his influence Greek philosophers were 
expelled from Rome. 

Nevertheless, it is rather difficult to gauge the 
impact of Greek civilization on Jewish thought in 
the third century B.C.E. Even if the Book of Kohelet 
(Ecclesiastes) was composed in this period, as the 
critics generally agree, it hardly shows any trace 
of Greek speculation. The outlook of the author is 
rather anti-intellectual : "he that increaseth knowl- 
edge, increaseth sorrow" (EccL 1:18). The whole 
philosophy of expediency which the author 
preaches, and even his lesson make the best of 
the present day belongs to. the traditional teach- 
ing of wise men in the Orient. Significant only is 
his omission of traditional values. He does not 
attack these, but he emphatically denies their 
value : it is the same whether one sacrifices or not, 
"all things come alike to all" (EccL 9:2), "moment 
and chance" rule life (EccL 3:19). Ecclesiastes is 


prepared to accept anything because he doubts the 
value of everything. He mentions God thirty-eight 
times, but he also repeats thirty times that "all 
is vanity ." It is in opposition to such a philosophy of 
relativity, dear to the "sons of Belial," that the 
author of Jubilees stresses the heavenly origin of 
the traditional precepts of belief and ritual. 

As it often happens, in order to uphold tradi- 
tional values, their apologists themselves propose 
the most radical innovations. The author of the 
Book of Jubilees outdoes the later talmudic teach- 
ing in his severity as to the observance of ritual 
prescriptions. But to assert the everlasting validity 
of the Torah, this traditionalist places his own com- 
position beside and even above Scripture, claims 
for his book a divine origin, and gives precepts 
which differ widely from those set forth in the 
Torah. The Bible says that the sun and the moon 
shall regulate seasons and days. In his paraphrase 
the author of Jubilees attacks the lunisolar calen- 
dar and strongly urges the adoption of his own 
system of a year of 364 days in which each holiday 
always falls on the same day of the week as 
ordained by God. Since the Jewish ecclesiastic 
calendar was built on the observation of the physi- 
cal reappearance of the new moon, the apologist of 
orthodoxy simply proposes to turn upside down 


the whole structure of the ritual. The reason for 
his revolutionary idea is significant: the irregu- 
larity of the moon confuses the times. Thus, with- 
out realizing it, this traditionalist succumbs to the 
seduction of the Greek penchant for rationaliza- 

In the face of innovators, Hellenistic or pseudo- 
orthodox, the conservative forces, grouped around 
the Temple, stood fast and tried to uphold the 
established way of life. 53 

The literary representative of this conservative 
class was Jesus Ben Sir a, a warm admirer of the 
High Priest Simeon. He realized that with him 
a venerable line of pious maxim writers came to an 
end: "I, indeed, came last of all," he says, "as one 
that gleaneth after the grape-gatherers." His social 
and religious ideas are conventional and the advice 
he addresses to his "son" (that is, pupil) aims at 
making him accept the present order. "The works of 
God are all good and He provides for every need in 
its time." Although he sharply denounces the op- 
pressors who, by the multitude of their sacrifices, 
try to pacify God for sins he that deprives the 
hireling of his hire sheds blood he is convinced 
that poverty and wealth alike come from God. In 
these views, Ben Sira reproduces the traditional 
wisdom of the Orient. This traditional Oriental 


wisdom is further reflected in such general dicta as 
"he that runs after gold will not be guiltless." He 
also keeps the traditional tenets of religion, and 
implicitly rejects the new doctrine of the future 
life. He maintains that man can dominate his evil 
nature by strictly following the Law, he clings to 
the principle that the moral govern the world, 
that the wicked are punished, and that virtue leads 
to well-being while laziness and dissolution bring 
disaster. He strongly stresses man's own responsi- 
bility for his sins and his advice to his pupils is 
biblical: "with all thy strength love Him that made 

Historians classify, but life's strands are inex- 
tricably interwoven. The traditionalist Ben Sira is 
at the same time the first Jewish author to put his 
own name to his work and to emphasize his literary 
personality and individuality. He claims no pro- 
phetic inspiration, nor any apocalyptic revelation. 
He is bringing doctrine "for all those who seek 
instruction" and, like a Greek wandering philos- 
opher of his time, proclaims: "Hear me, you great 
ones of the people and give ear to me, you, rulers of 
the congregation." He not only accepts the figure 
of personified wisdom (an originally Canaanite 
goddess), which appears in Proverbs, but puts this 
profane knowledge on a level with "the book of the 


Covenant of the Most High, the law which Moses 
commanded" a rather bold effort to reconcile tHe 
synagogue with the Greek Academy, Jerusalem 
with Athens. Even the literary form of his book 
reflects the modernism which he combats. Ben Sira 
is fond of utilizing passages of Scripture as texts 
to comment upon in putting forth his own views on 
the subject. This practice was probably influenced 
by synagogue preaching. 

The process of action and reaction produced in 
the third century R.C.E. by the suddenly intensified 
contact between Judaism and Hellenism led to 
curious changes in the usage of the Divine Name. 
The proper name of the national God (YHWH) 
ceased to be pronounced by the Jews in the course 
of the fifth century except in the Temple service 
and in taking an oath. The latter usage is attested 
to by a source used by Philo, 8 * and it was preserved 
by the Samaritans as late as the fifth century of 
the Common Era. As the exceptions show, the 
motive for the disuse of the proper name was the 
idea that its utterance had magical power. The 
general belief in the magical efficacy of the proper 
name is well known, but in Canaan it became 
dominant about the beginning of the first millen- 
nium B.C.E. Thus, the Phoenician gods are anony- 
mous 65 while the deities of the "Proto-Phoenieians" 


in the fourteenth century B.C.E. had proper names, 
as the texts of Ugarit show. The Jews accepted the 
idea of the unpronounceable Divine Name, only 
after the Exile. Their national God was now "the 
God in Jerusalem" or the "God of Heaven," a 
name which identified Him with the supreme deity 
of the Persians and the Syrian peoples. Accordingly, 
the pronunciation Elohim (God), and afterward 
Adonai (my Lord), was substituted for the tetra- 
grammaton YHWH. When the Greeks came, the 
abstract term, "God," perfectly corresponded to 
their philosophical conception of the Supreme 
Being, ho Theos* the God, or to Theion, the Divine. 
So they accepted this indefinite designation for the 
God of the Jews. By a kind of reversed attraction, 
the Greek speculative term then influenced Hebrew 
writers. The Book of Kohelet speaks of God only 
as Elohim, One would expect, therefore, that when 
speaking Greek the Jews would designate their God 
as ho Theos or to Theion. As a matter of fact, they 
said Kyrios, a legal term meaning the legitimate 
master of someone or something, a word which as a 
substantive was not used in Greek religious langu- 
age. It is simply a literal translation of the Hebrew 
appellative Adonai (the Lord), which became in 
the meantime the standard pronunciation of the 
awe-inspiring tetragrammaton. Since Kyrios was not 


intelligible to the Greeks and the term Theos had 
a rather general meaning, the Jews speaking or 
writing Greek in Palestine began in the third 
century B.C.E. to speak of their God as Hypsistos, 
"the Most High." In the same way, in the fifth 
century B.C.E. the Hellenized Thracians identified 
their supreme deity, Sabazios, with Zeus. And 
again, the Greek term reacted upon the Hebrew 
style. Already in Ben Sira the designation, "Most 
High God," is found forty-eight times, although the 
corresponding Hebrew term Elyon is very rare in 
the Bible. The same circumlocution is frequently 
used by the very anti-Greek author of the Book of 
Jubilees, and the same title was chosen by the 
Maccabean priest-kings to designate the God of 
Zion in their official Hebrew utterances. The 
Talmud quotes the formula: "In such a year of 
Johanan, priest of the Most High God." 

But the most important result of the Greek im- 
pact on Palestinian Judaism was the formation of 
a Jewish intelligentsia, different from the clergy 
and not dependent on the sanctuary. The new class 
was known as "scribes." "Scribe," if not simply 
penman, was the technical term for a public official 
who entered the civil service as a profession. Ac- 
cordingly, there were in the acient Orient pre- 
paratory schools for future office-holders. From 


these institutions came the works of the mundane 
"wisdom" literature (like the biblical Proverbs) , ad- 
vising, as a Babylonian text says, "to fear God and 
the Law.'* But in the Hellenistic age Greek became 
the universal language of administration and busi- 
ness, and native writing and learning were rapidly 
becoming confined to the temples. The cuneiform 
documents of the Hellenistic age use the ideogram 
"priest" to denote the native notaries, and the 
latter act in Ptolemaic Egypt "in behalf" of a 
priest, Likewise, the native law in Ptolemaic Egypt 
was administered by a court of three priests. In 
both Egypt and Babylonia, so far as the native 
writing was still used, the priest was now the scribe, 
the judge and the sole teacher of the people, and 
the temples were only centers of native learning. 
The "Chaldeans," astrologers and astronomers who 
preserved the ancient science in Babylonia, were 
part of the clergy. At the same time as in Egypt 
and Mesopotamia the polytheistic Orient shrinks 
into a priestly dependence, there begins a cleavage 
between the sacerdotal and the secular interpreters 
of the Divine Law in Judaism. About 190 B.CJE. 
Ben Sira urges his hearers to honor the priest and 
to gire him his portion according to the Law. He 
acknowledges the authority of the High Priest 
"over statutes and judgment," but it is the scribe 


who advises the rulers, and the assembly in the gate 
sits in the seat of the judge and expounds righteous- 
ness and judgment. The scribe is not a lawyer act- 
ing in behalf of a client; but like the Roman juris 
periti of the same period, a person who has such 
knowledge of the laws and customs as to act as 
authority for the judge to follow in his decisions. 
In both Jerusalem and Rome, the administration of 
justice was no longer in the hands of the priests in 
the third century B.C.E. Ecclesiastes mentions the 
"ten rulers" of the city who are not worth one 
Sage (Eccl. 7:19). Ben Sira mentions the jursdic- 
tion of the popular assembly in the punishment of 
adultery. But for the most part he speaks of the 
"rulers." He advises his reader: Gain instruction 
so that you may "serve the potentate." Ben Sira has 
in mind the agents of the Macedonian kings, such as 
Zenon, well known on account of recently dis- 
covered papyri. As servant of his Greek master, the 
Jewish scribe becomes a legitimate interpreter of 
the Divine Law. In fact, still at the time of Malachi, 
that is, toward the end of the fifth century B.C*E^ 
knowledge comes from the priest's lips and the 
people "seek the law at his mouth; for he is the 
messenger of the Lord of hosts" (MaL 2:7). It is 
the priest who answers the questions concerning 
ritual cleanliness (Hag. 2:12). The Chronicler 


still regards instruction in the Law as the privilege 
and duty of the Levites and considers the "scribes" 
as a class of the Levites (II Chron. 34:13), But in 
the royal charter given to Jerusalem in 200 B.C.E. 
the "scribes of the sanctuary" form a special and 
privileged body. The foreign rulers of the Orient 
needed, of course, expert advice as to the laws and 
customs of their subjects. Antiochus Ill's proclama- 
tion concerning the ritual arrangements at 
Jerusalem could not be drafted without the col- 
laboration of Jewish jurists. At the same time, the 
lay scribe, powerful in the council of the Greek 
potentates, became, owing to his influence with 
the foreign master, an authority in the Jewish 
assembly. <c The utterance of a prudent man," says 
Ben Sira, "is sought for in the congregation," and 
he mentions in opposition to the scribe, the crafts- 
man, whose opinion is not asked in the council of 
the people. Since all Jewish law and legal customs 
were derived from the Torah, the scribe became 
the authority as to the Law of Moses. He meditated 
on the Law of the Most High. But still, in the time 
of Ben Sira the knowledge of the Torah was con- 
sidered only part of the intellectual qualifications 
required of the seribe. He had also to find out the 
hidden sense of parables and to search out the 
wisdom of all the ancients. Daniel, who explains 


the secret and meaning of royal dreams at the 
Babylonian court, is the ideal scribe as visualized 
by Ben Sira. On the other hand, the scribe is not 
only counselor of kings and assemblies, but also 
wise man and teacher. "Turn to me, you ignorant/ 9 
says Ben Sira, "and tarry in my school/* He 
promises as the fruit of his teaching the acquisition 
by the pupil of "much silver and gold." But he 
gives to his pupils "wisdom," "and all wisdom 
cometh from the Lord." So his scribe and his 
school of wisdom prepare for the coming of the 
Pharisaic scholar in the next generation. This 
Pharisaic scholar regards learning as the highest 
of human values and teaches that the fear of the 
Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but is prepared 
to serve his Master not for the sake of reward. 
However, between Ben Sira and the first Pharisees, 
there is the persecution of Antiochus and the rev- 
olution of the Maccabees. 



The process of dispersion continued and created 
new ramifications of third-century Jewry. We 
learn, for instance, that toward the end of this 
century two thousand Jewish families from Baby- 
lonia were settled by the Seleucid government as 
military colonists in Lydia and Phrygia, and that at 
the beginning of the same century Ptolemy I trans- 
ferred Jews and Samaritans from Palestine to 
Egypt, The wars between Alexander's successors 
brought many Jewish slaves, captured in Palestine, 
to the Alexandrian or Syrian markets. There was 
also a voluntary emigration; many went to Egypt, 
we are told, attracted by the humanity of the 

The bulk of Jewry was still established between 
the Euphrates and the Nile. But the fate of Alex- 
ander's empire divided the Levant into two parts. 
While the Jews of Egypt and, until 200 B.C.E., of 
Palestine owed allegiance to the Ptolemies, the Jews 
in the East and, after 200 B.C.E., in Palestine, were 
subjects of the Seleucids. The Hellenistic kingdoms 


were based on personal loyalty to the monarch 
rather than on national or territorial feeling. Since 
the Seleucids and the Ptolemies were perpetual 
rivals and antagonists who fought five wars in the 
third century, both dynasties tried to gain the favor 
of the Jews. It is significant that the biblical pass- 
age (Deut. 26:5), "A wandering Aramean was my 
father and he went down into Egypt," is changed 
to "My father forsook Syria and went down into 
Egypt" in the Alexandrian Greek version. Likewise, 
the Midrash for Passover evening, established by 
the authorities of the Temple under the Egyptian 
rule, changes the same scriptural sentence, giving 
to it the meaning that the "Aramean," that is, 
Lab an, the personification of Syria, sought to des- 
troy "my father," Jacob, so that the latter came to 
Egypt according to the Word of God. On the other 
hand, after 200 B.C.B., under the Seleucid domina- 
tion, another composition in the Passover service 
put emphasis upon the anti-Egyptian implications 
of the Exodus and upon Israel's Mesopotamian 
origins, 56 The fact that Jerusalem, the spiritual 
center of the Diaspora, belonged to one of the 
rival powers cast suspicion on the loyalty of the 
Jews under the domination of the other. In a para- 
phrase of the biblical history, the Book of Jubilees 
explains the enslavement of the Jews by Pharaoh 


as follows: "because their hearts and faces are to- 
ward the land of Canaan," ruled by the king of 

In the light of these texts we may understand 
the origins of the Alexandrine version of the Bible. 
According to Jewish tradition, already known and 
standardized about 180 B.C.E., the Greek translation 
of the Torah was made about 280-250 B.C.E. in 
Alexandria upon the suggestion of King Ptolemy 
II. Modern critics reject the tradition without the 
slightest reason, and regard the undertaking as one 
of the Alexandrine community, intended to convert 
the heathen and to enable the Greek-speaking Jews 
to read the Scriptures. 

Regardless of the auspices under which this 
translation was undertaken, the mere fact that the 
translation was made is of primary importance. Let 
us add that the Greek version of the Torah was 
soon followed by translations of other Jewish 
books. Throughout three centuries and more, the 
Jews did not cease from rendering their books into 
the world's common language. Psalms of the Tem- 
ple and the Psalms ascribed to Solomon, the 
prophets of old and the new fabricated revelations 
of Enoch and Moses, Job and Esther and the 
dbixjuicles of the Maccabean dynasty were pub- 
lished in Greek. Looking back at this activity of 


translators, a later Rabbi explained Genesis 9:27 
as meaning: "Let them speak the language of 
Japhet in the tent of Shem." 67 

This venture of translating was unique in antiq- 
uity. There were in Greek some popular tales or 
missionary tracts adapted from Egyptian; some 
authentic traditions were preserved in Greek books 
which circulated under the name of Zoroaster or 
Ostanes. Contemporary with the Greek version of 
the Torah, an Egyptian priest (Manetho) and the 
Chaldean Berossus, and later some Phoeaiician 
authors, issued in Greek summaries "from the 
sacred books" of the history of their respective 
peoples. These compilations were, like similar 
works of Jewish or Roman writers, Demetrius, 
Fabius Pictor and later Flavius Josephus, adapta- 
tions made to Greek taste, 

However, the esoteric character of priestly lore 
prevented a wholesale translation of the sacred 
books of the East. We know exactly hymns and 
rites of the Babylonian temples at Uruk (the bibli- 
cal Erech) as used in the Hellenistic age, since we 
are able to decode the cuneiform signs. But the 
priests who copied these texts under the rule of the 
Seleucids abstained from translating their psalms 
and instructions into Greek, No wonder: in de- 
scribing some rites, the author of the ancient text 


added: 4t The Foreigner may not see it." Likewise, 
there is an abundant literature in Greek attributed 
to the Egyptian god of wisdom, Thoth, called in 
Greek Hermes. But these books hardly exhibit any 
Egyptian element, and the ignorance of their 
writers is such that they make "That," which is 
another spelling of "Thoth," refer to an independ- 
ent divinity. Although the daily liturgy of Hel- 
lenized gods, such as Isis, was celebrated in Greek, 
the authentic sacred books of Egypt, carried by the 
priests in sacral processions, remained inaccessible 
to the Hellenes. An immense body of literature in 
Greek was ascribed to Zoroaster, but none of his 
votaries took the trouble to translate his authentic 
Hymns, and the Persian god Mithra always re- 
mained "unable to speak Greek." 

In this way, while the Oriental religions re- 
mained unknown to a Western devotee, they lost 
ground in their native countries as well when the 
hieroglyphs and the cuneiforms began to be for- 
gotten. In the second century B.C.E. the knowledge of 
sacred letters was already limited at Uruk in Baby- 
Ionia to a small group of clerics. By translating 
liberally its literature, sacred and profane, new 
and old, into the world language, Judaism pre- 
served its vitality. Moses and his law, or the revela- 
tions of Jewish seers, entered and filled in the 


mental world of the proselytes as if the latter had 
been born in Abraham's posterity. The Jews be- 
came "people of the Book" when this Book was 
rendered into Greek. 

To return to the Greek version of the Torah, it 
was done with due regard for the Greek reader. 
The Rabbinic tradition recalls the fact that the 
translators at times changed their text out of defer- 
ence to pagan sensitivity. 

A classic instance is Lev. 11:6, where the Greek 
version renders the word "hare" among the un- 
clean animals by "rough foot," because the Greek 
word for hare (Lagos) was the epithet for the 
ancestor of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Even more im- 
portant is the religious terminology of the 
translation. Although the ineffable Name was trans- 
literated in the Greek Bible it was pronounced as 
Kyrios, the Lord. Likewise, the version omits other 
appellations of the God of Israel, such as Adonai, 
Shaddai, Sabaot, which continued to be used in 
Palestine. In their place, the version employs eat- 
pressions such as "the God," "the Almighty," etc. 
In this way the particular God of Abraham, Isaac 
and Jacob becomes in Greek the Supreme Being 
of mankind. This representation of the original 
meaning corresponds to the religious trend of the 
Greek world. In the Greek Diaspora the 


deities, let us say of Thebes or Crete, gave place to 
the universal Olympians, and the latter, losing 
their individuality, became simply different forms 
of the same universal deity of salvation and bene- 

Consider another example. The term, "Tor ah," 
should be rendered in Greek by words expressing 
some kind of authority. But its regular rendering 
in the version is Nomos, "the Law," or better, "the 
constitution." Thus, the Pentateuch in Greek ap- 
peared as the legal corpus of Jewry. But while the 
translators tried to present Judaism as universalis- 
tic, they were no less intent on emphasizing the 
difference between the true religion and heathen- 
ism. For instance, they purposely used different 
Greek terms when speaking of the Temple or the 
Altar or the service of the true God and, on the 
other hand, when mentioning idolatry. In a hymn 
of praise, written in 261 B.C.E., a Greek contem- 
porary of the translators glorified the Egyptian 
deity who had cured him. 58 The technical terms of 
praise he uses, such as arete, dynamis, kratos do 
not occur, with regard to the Lord, in the Greek 
Pentateuch. With the same purpose of separating 
the Supreme Being from the anthropomorphic 
idols of the Greeks, the version avoids expressions 
attributing human forms and passions to the Lord. 


For instance, Ex. 24:10 tells that the Elders coming 
up toward Sinai with Moses "saw the God of 
Israel." The Greek version reads: they saw the 
place "where the God of Israel had stood." But 
neither the Greek version of the Bible nor the 
works of Berossus and Manetho, written for the 
Greek public, attained their object. The Greeks 
preferred their own quite fantastic versions of 
Oriental history. They repeated, for instance, de- 
spite Berossus' protest, that Babylon was founded 
by the dissolute Queen Semiramis, and said that 
Judah, the ancestor of the Jews, was a son of the 
same legendary queen. Neither Berossus nor Ma- 
netho is quoted by Greek historians, but both were 
read and used as sources of astrological and magical 
knowledge. Likewise, the Septuagint is quoted a 
few times by philosophers. Later pagan speculation 
might, like the author of Poimandres, employ the 
biblical history of creation to express a new re- 
ligious feeling. But Greek scholarship intentionally 
ignored the Bible as well as Berossus or Manetho 
because the Greeks regarded, quite naturally, their 
own tradition of the mythical past as trustworthy 
and consequently rejected as unreliable myths tibe 
contradictory Oriental accounts, 

Relations between the Jews and the pagans in 
the Dispersion continued to be friendly or indiffer- 


ent. Philosophers considered the strict observance 
of the Sabbath as superstition. A writer could re- 
produce the malicious anecdote, invented by the 
Idumeans, about the foolishness of the people of 
Jerusalem, But there is no anti- Jewish passage in 
Greek literature before the Maccabean struggle nor 
any recorded anti- Jewish action. The details of 
daily life of the Jews in the Diaspora before the 
Maccabean age are almost unknown, except for 
Egypt. Here we find Jews transacting business with 
other colonists. They were legally regarded as 
"Hellenes," in opposition to the native "Egyptians." 
There is, for instance, a judgment of a Ptolemaic 
court of 226 B.C.E. concerning an alleged assault. 
Both parties were Jews, but the legal guardian of 
the defendant, a Jewess, was an Athenian, the 
witnesses of the summons were a Thracian and a 
Persian, and the case was decided according to 
Greek law. The juridical situation of the Jews in 
Ptolemaic Egypt, and in the Diaspora generally, is 
sufficiently clear. The difficulty begins when we 
try to appreciate the cultural relations between 
Jews and pagans. The number "6" was called "Eve 
of Sabbath" in the slang of gamblers in Alex- 
andria. 8 * What did the Greeks know of the Jewish 
religion? Around 200 B.CJE, a Jewish poetaster 
wrote a tragedy describing the Exodus. The author 


(Ezekiel) follows Hellenistic dramatic techniques 
and imitates Euripides. But was his composition 
written for heathen readers or was it intended to 
take the place in Jewish education of Greek plays 
based on mythology? The most impressive witness 
and the most important feature of Judaism coming 
into contact with Hellenism was the conversion of 
Greeks. There were, of course, always "strangers 
who joined themselves unto the Lord" (Jub. 
55:10), but it was only in the Hellenistic age that 
proselytism became widespread. To understand the 
phenomenon, let us note at the outset that new 
adherents unto the Lord were all, or almost all, 
Greeks or Hellenized natives of Greek cities. The 
people of the countryside continued to speak their 
native languages and stubbornly worshiped their 
traditional gods. An Anatolian or Egyptian peasant 
did not care much for any deity in Greek garb, 
whether from Olympus or from Zion. The Greek 
translation of the Pentateuch represented the Most 
High God of the Dispersion as speaking Greek. The 
Alexandrine version of the Torah was made before 
250 B.C.E. No part of the Bible, however, was 
translated by the Jews into any tongue other than 
Greek not even Latin, although some Latin for- 
mulae were used by Latin-speaking Jews in Africa 
and Italy in the second and third centuries C.E. 


All translations of the Bible, except those into 
Greek, were the results of Christian missionary 
activity. The Ethiopian eunuch, returning from a 
pilgrimage to Jerusalem, was reading Isaiah (Acts 
8:28) in Greek when met by the Apostle Philip on 
the road. Probably no Jew in Egypt ever tried to 
reach the natives who spoke only dialects of the 
Egyptian tongue. He was "Hellene" and as such 
he discriminated against the people who did not 
know Greek. Nothing seemed to him more unfair 
than the idea of degrading himself to the condition 
of the natives. On the other hand, the people of the 
cities were in a propitious mood to receive foreign 
missionaries. The new cities of the Near East were 
new homes for settlers whether they came from 
Athens or from Caria. Of course, everybody took 
with him to his new home his ancestral idols and 
did not neglect the age-old shrines of the new 
country's deities. But gods and men alike were 
upset on a new soil. There was room for unknown 
deities who might stir new hopes and quiet fears; 
and there was the fascinating appeal of the divine 
forces of the mysterious East, of gods who were old 
before the birth of Zeus. 60 Accordingly, many 
Oriental cults started missionary efforts among the 
"Hellenes." An Egyptian priest brought the wor- 
ship of Serapis to Delos, the sacred island of the 


Greeks, at about the beginning of the third century 
B.c.E. A shrine was erected to the Syrian Atargatis 
in an Egyptian village by a Macedonian soldier in 
222 B.C.E. Before the end of the third century B.C.E. 
the mysteries of the Persian Mithra spread among 
the Greeks in Egypt. Jewish propaganda followed 
the same road and the same pattern. The same 
term proselytos (advena), 61 that is "one who has 
arrived at or to," was used for both the converts 
to the Lord and the converts to the Egyptian Isis. 
Unfortunately, we do not have dated evidence of 
Jewish proselytism before the Maccabean period. 
But when we are told that in 139 B.C.E. Jews were 
expelled from Rome for attempting u to infect" 
Roman morals with their cult, we may postulate 
that proselytism in the Near East must have started 
before the beginning of the second century B.C.E. 
It seems that in early Hellenism the people who 
completely accepted Judaism by circumcision and 
baptism, and refused to take part any longer in 
pagan ceremonies, were rather rare. But there were 
numerous Hellenes who revered the Most High 
without observing all the prescriptions of the 
Torah. Some early Hellenistic texts throw light on 
the state of mind of such "God-fearers."* 2 About 180 
B.C.E. a minister of Seleucus IV of Syria attempted 
to extort money from the Temple treasury, but 


failed ignominiously. His defeat, immortalized by 
Raphael's Storia di Eliodoro, was, of course, ex- 
plained in Jerusalem as a miracle. The story was 
told of Heliodorus who, scourged by angels, had 
been ordered to "declare unto all men the mighty 
power of God." He then testified to all men the 
works of the Great God, whom he had seen with 
his eyes. Heliodorus did not become a Jew but the 
stripes received at the hands of the angels con- 
vinced him that the Lord of Zion is above all gods 
(II Mace. 2:4). In the same way, according to 
Jewish legend, Alexander the Great prostrated him- 
self before the High Priest, and Nebuchadnezzar 
had to recognize that the Most High God does ac- 
cording to His will, "in the host of heaven and 
among the inhabitants of the earth** (Dan. 4:32). 
Since pagan cults were polytheistic, their propa- 
ganda tried to persuade men only of the relative 
superiority of a particular deity. The Jewish mis- 
sion adopted the same pattern. For example, there 
is a Jewish tale of Bel and Daniel. Deceived by a 
trick of Bel's priests, the Persian king exclaims, 
^Great art thou, Bel, and there is not with him 
deceit-" But Daniel explodes the pretended mira- 
cle, and the king recognizes that great is the Lord, 
God of Daniel, and there is none other beside Him. 
The Book of Jonah describes a Jewish missionary 


who calls for repentance and is sent to foreign 
lands, where the name of the Lord is already 
known and revered. The sailors on Jonah's ship are 
heathen, praying, every man, to his own idol, hut 
they all fear the Lord exceedingly. These sailors, 
or Heliodorus of the Jewish tale, resemble the 
adherents of syncretistic cults who worshiped the 
Lord as the Supreme Master of the Universe, but 
placed under Him, or beside Him, other divine 
forces. Such were, for example, some religious 
societies in Asia Minor which fused the Phrygian 
Sabazios with Sabaot, observed the Sabbath, but 
refused to accept the exclusive attitude of Judaism 
toward pagan worship. The existence of such "God- 
fearers" extended the influence of Judaism, of 
course, and the sons of semiproselytes often became 
full converts. But the recognition of such followers 
of Judaism sapped the foundations of the latter. 
A Jewish latitudinarian, such as a certain Arta- 
panus, could endeavor to identify Moses with Thot- 
Hermes, a central figure in Hellenistic syncretism, 
and ascribe to the apostle of monotheism the estab- 
lishment of the Egyptian cult of animals. 

On the other hand, let us again open the Book 
of Jonah. The people of Nineveh who were and 
who remained pagans did not perish because they 
fasted and, covered with sackcloth, cried mightily 


unto God. Such is the lesson of this hook: God is 
abundant in mercy and will have pity on the great 
city "wherein are more than sixscore thousand per- 
sons that cannot discern between their right hand 
and their left hand, and also much cattle." The 
design of the book is not to teach the universality 
of Divine grace, as the critics say today. This point 
is already presumed by the author. But as the 
Rabbis explained and the Church Father, Chrys- 
ostom, saw, the question of Jonah is whether 
contrition per se, even that of unbelievers, is 
sufficient to turn away God's anger. The Jewish 
author of the bibilical book affirms it. The universal 
church, as well as the mosque, answers in the nega- 
tive extra ecclesiam nulla solus. This answer as 
well as Jonah's misgivings about God's compassion 
are easy to understand. If the repentance of the 
unbeliever avails him, if he may share the favor 
of Heaven without assuming the yoke of the Law, 
why the necessity to enter the fold? Why should a 
Jew by birth observe the numberless minute ritual 
precepts which involve social disapproval and, for 
instance, bar him from the royal table? The 
generous universalism of the Book of Jonah was 
more dangerous to institutional Judaism than the 
indifference of Ecclesiastes. The confusion of the 


syncretists helped to inspire the reform of the 
Jewish religion ahout 175 B.C.E. tinder the auspices 
of Antiochus Epiphanes. 


I Herod, TO, 19. 

*See the present writer's paper "An Edict of Cyras,** in 
Journ. of Bibl. Lit., LXV, 1944. 

* Berosus ap. Josephus, Contra Apionem, I, 150. 

* Maurice Holleaux, Etudes d"epigraphie et dhistoire 

greeques, (Paris, 1938), I, i. 

s On Sephararvain cf. William Foxwell Albright, Archaeology 
and the Religion of Israel (Baltimore, 1942), p. 163. 

*0n chronology cf. Albright, op. cit^ p. 168. 

T See A. Dupont-Sommer, Revue de rhistoire des religions, 
CXXX (Paris, 1945, 17-28) and Comptes-Rendus de 
F Academic des Inscriptions (1947), pp. 175-191. 

8 Sidney Smith, Babylonian Historical Texts (London, 
1924), p. 145. 

8 Albright, "Light on the Jewish State in Persian Times," 
in BuLL Amer. Sch. Or. Res^ No. 53, p. 20, 

10 M. Rostovtzeff, Social and Economic History of the Hellen- 
istic World. (Oxford, 1941) III, 1324. 

II On the so-called "Naucratis** inscription see the literature 

quoted by G. Posener in Annales du Service des 
Antiques de PEgypte (Paris, 1934), p. 141. 

M See E. Bikerman, "Heliodore au Temple d Jerusalem," in 
Annuaire de rinstitut de PhUologie et iFHistoire 
Orientales (Universite de BruxeUes), 1939-1942, VII, 14. 

18 Hecataeus ap. Jos C. Ap. L 188. 


u For archaeological evidence cf . Rostovtzeff, op. cit^ p. 1325. 
see also McCown, Tell En-Nashbeh, I (Berkeley, 1947). 

15 Clearchus ap. Jos. C. Ap. I, 176, Cf. Hans Lewy, "Aristotle 
and the Jewish Sage According to Clearchus of Soli," 
in Harv. Theo. Rev., XXXI, No. 3, p. 205. 

W A. Reifenberg, Ancient Jewish Coins (Jerusalem, 1947), 

17 Reifenberg, op. cit. #ia. A Hebrew shekel (3.88gr.) in 

silver, obv.: male head bearded; Rv.: Female head; 
Inscr. (in Hebrew) : "one half." 

18 Reifenberg, op. cit., Plate I, #3. 

* Louis Finkelstein, The Pharisees (Philadelphia, 1938), II, 

p. 566. 

96 C. C. Torrey, The Second Isaiah (New York, 1928), p. 126, 
has already vigorously protested against this misconcep- 
tion, cf. Finkelstein, op. cit., p. 461. 

R It is a pity that N. D. Fustel de Coulanges*s La Cue 
Antique, published in 1864, is almost unknown outside 
of France. 

**Eur n Electro* 795. 

50 Eur., Ion, 588. 

**C1 A. D. Nock, Conversion (London, 1933), p . 20. 

m Evr^ Heracl^ 348. 

* A. T. Olmstead, History of Assyria (New York, 1923), 

p. 580. 

* Cf. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity (Balti- 

more, 1929), pp. 242 and 245. 
**. Glotz, The Greek City and its Institutions (New York, 

1929), p. 258. 
"*C. N. Cochrane, Christianity and Classical Culture (Oxford, 

1944), p. 462. 
*0ion. Halic., DC. Thuc. 5. I quote the translation of the 

passage in Lionel Pearson, Early Ionian Historians 

(Oxford, 1939), p. 3. 
**Aielf Erman, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians 

(London, 1927), pp. 53 and 95. 


34 CL, too, an inscription of Shalmaneser III in D. D. Lucken- 

bill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia (Chicago, 
1926-1927), II. The narrative begins in the first person 
(#623) and continues in the third person (#624). 

88 R. W. Rogers, Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament 
(New York, 1912), p. 380. 

**Such fictitious documents are already included in the 
Egyptian cycle of stories of Petubastis, a kind of 
historical novel which is presented as a work of his- 
toriography. See G. Maspero, Popular Stories of Ancient 
Egypt, (New York, 1915), pp. 242 and 256. 

35 See Rostovtzeff, op. cit^ III, 1326. 
* Herod, II, 30 and 154. 

"Albright, "King Joachim in Exile," in Biblical Archaeolo- 
gist, V, No. 4, p. 51. 

88 W. Eilers, in Zeitschr. Deutsch. Morgenlaend. Ces^ 1940, 
p. 225. 

"See S. Daiches, The Jews of Babylonia, (London, 1910). 

** A. E. Cowley Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century (Oxford, 
1923 ) . Some 125 ostraca will be published by A. Dupont- 
Sommer. See his papers quoted above in n. 7. 

41 E. Dhorme in Revue tfAssyriologie, 1928. 

42 F. L. Griffith, Catalogue of the Demotic Papyri in the John 

Rylands Library (Manchester, 1909), p. 60. 

48 See Bickerman, "Un Document retalif a la persecution 
d'Antiochus IV Epiphane," in Revue de FHis&oire des 
Religions, CXV, p. 188. 

"Lewy, "Hekataios von Abdera," in Zeitschr. Neutest. 
Wissen^ XXXI, p. 117. 

45 W. Jaeger, "Greeks and Jews: The First Greek Records of 
Jewish Religion and Civilization," in Journal of Re- 
ligion, XVIII, p. 38. 

^Lewy, op. cit^ n. 15. 

47 We do not know whether oil was also distributed to the 
people who did not frequent the "gymnasia." Cf. Jeanne 
et Louis Robert, Inscriptions grecques de Lydie, p. 129. 


**F. Pfister, "Eine juedische Gruendungsgeschichte Alex- 

andrias," in Sitz. Heidelberger Akad. Wissen^ XI, July, 

**See Bikerman, Institutions des Seleucides (Paris, 1938) , 

p. 165. 

^Polybius^XVI, 39, 5. 
H Rastovtzeff, op. cit., Index s.v. Palestine. 
"On the Back of Jubilees: Finkelstein, "Pre-Maccabean 

Documents in the Passover Haggadah," in Harv. Theo. 

Rev^ XXXVI, p. 19. 
M On the phantom of the so-called "Great Synagogue," which 

is often evoked by modern writers on this period, see 

my note xxxi in Revue Biblique, 1948. 
84 W. L. Knox, Some Hellenistic Elements in Primitive 

Christianity (London, 1944), p. 48. 

55 See Bickennan, "Anonymous Gods," in Journ. of the War- 
burg Inst^ I, p. 58. 
84 Finkelstein, "The Oldest Midrash: Pre-Rabbinic Ideals and 

Teachings in the Passover Haggadah," in Harv. Theo. 

Rev^ XXXI, p. 291 and XXXVI, p. 19. 
87 S. Lieberman, Greek in Jewish Palestine, (Philadelphia, 


w See Bataille's paper quoted in n. 67. 
w P. Perdrizet, in Bull, de FInst. Franfais tfArcheol. Orient., 

XXX, 5. 
**See the classic book of Franz Cumont, Les religions 

orientales dans le pagani&me romain (4th ed., Paris, 

m R. Reitzenstein, Die hettenistischen Mysterienreligionen 

(3rd e<l, Leipzig, 1927), p. 193. 
**See paper quoted in n. 12. 



TO T. B. 

PS. 35:17 



At the end of the year 167 B.C.E., approximately in 
December, by order of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, 
King of Syria and so ruler of the Jews, the Temple 
on Zion was desecrated and given over to the uses of 
idolatry. At the same time the law of Moses was re- 
scinded by a decree of the King. Observance of the 
commandments of the Torah, such as circumcision 
and the sanctification of Sabbath and New Moon, 
was made a capital offense. In addition, the Jews 
were required to worship the gods of the Gentiles. 
Altars were erected to these gods in every locality, 
and the populace was commanded to offer sacrifice 
to the new deities. It was the pig, precisely the animal 
regarded by the Jews as unclean, that was the most 
acceptable offering to these gods. Pigs were offered 
even upon the altar of the Sanctuary at Jerusalem, 
upon which each day, in early morning and at the 
approach of evening, offerings had been made to the 


God of Israel. The "abomination of desolation* 9 
hovered over the Sanctuary and the wrath of God 
over the people. Never hefore and never thereafter 
was the spiritual existence of Israel so imperiled. 
Was this not the last trial, that Day of the Lord so 
often proclaimed and threatened by the prophets? 
A book has come down to us from this period of 
persecution, the biblical Book of DanieL In the 
midst of these afflictions a seer perceived the signifi- 
cance of the ancient prophecies concerning the world 
empires, their wars, and the tribulations of the holy 
people. To him, these prophecies seemed to speak 
of his own time, and thus he interpreted them for 
his contemporaries, suiting them to the events dur- 
ing the persecutions of Epiphanes. He felt that the 
aid of time was approaching, and he could see no 
salvation for the people other than through the di- 
rect intervention of God, He knew well enough that 
the Romans had just driven Epiphanes from Egypt, 
and that the King was then waging a campaign in 
the East; yet he refused to think of the possibility, 
frequently suggested by the prophets, that another 
earthly power might, in fulfilment of the divine 
plan, crush the persecutor to earth. Rather would 
Epiphanes yet conquer Egypt, he foretold:". . . and 
there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was 

since there was a nation even to that same time" 
until "there came with the clouds of heaven one like 
unto a son of man" to rule over the world forever. 
The reader of this book knew that supplication and 
fast hut never a human act might alter the course 
of events and shorten the period of tribulation, 

Daniel's resignation was no accident. Judaism's 
cause seemed desperate precisely because the Jews 
showed no zeal in its defense. Two centuries later, 
when the Roman governor Pontius Pilate had his 
standards bearing the image of the emperor set up 
in the Temple area, the people went to his head- 
quarters at Caesarea and for five days and five nights 
besought him to remove the human likenesses from 
the Holy City. And when Pilate's soldiers sur- 
rounded the crowd with swords drawn, the Jews 
bared their necks; they preferred death to acquies- 
cence and Pilate yielded. 

But in 166 Jerusalem was filled with monuments 
of the pagan cult, and the princes of Jerusalem to- 
gether with the men of Judea obediently heeded the 
will of the earthly ruler. Altars were built before 
the doors of the houses and sacrifices were offered 
upon them, to make a public display of zeal for the 
new paganism. Only a few proved unyielding and 
openly transgressed the commandment of the King 


for the sake of the commandment of the living God* 
They were seized, scourged, martyred, and slain. 

More numerous were those who sought to evade 
the order of the King. Without standing forth openly 
as Jews, they still avoided any participation in the 
idolatrous rites. In order to lay hold of these, officers 
of the King journeyed from city to city, coercing the 
people into open apostasy. They would cause an 
altar to he erected in the market place, summon the 
populace, and require them to worship the gods and 
taste the flesh of the offerings. Many refused, and 
suffered martyrdom. "They shall stumble by the 
sword and by flame,** says Daniel of them, "by cap- 
tivity and by spoil, many days." 

In the course of the winter of 166 the agents of 
apostasy made their appearance in the town of Mo- 
din, situated upon a hill near Lydda, on the road 
from Jerusalem to Jaffa. When the first Jew of Modin 
stepped up to the pagan altar to sacrifice according 
to the King's will, Mattathias, a priest whose family 
resided in Modin, sprang out from the circle of by- 
standers, struck the man down so that his body was 
stretched out upon the altar, slew the agent of the 
government, and then pulled down the altar. 

In the age of the religious wars, in the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries, the legitimacy of Mat- 


tathias 9 conduct was vigorously debated. His hal- 
lowed precedent was held to justify subjects who 
oppose the authorities in questions of faith. This 
conception of his deed, which is not without sig- 
nificance even today, would have seemed strange and 
perhaps dangerous to Mattathias himself. In the 
speech which his Jewish historian puts into his 
mouth Mattathias does not dispute the right of the 
ruler to alter the laws of peoples subject to him; he 
does oppose an order of the King which is at vari- 
ance with the revealed commandment of God. The 
struggle is not one of an individual conscience for 
freedom of belief; it is rather a conflict between 
earthly power and the law of the state of God. Mat- 
tathias championed the Torah as once Phinehas had 
done, when he slew Zimri, who had dared worship 
the Baal of the Midianites (Num. 25) . But looked at 
through the eyes of worldly power, Mattathias 9 deed 
was an act of political terrorism. Mattathias and his 
five sons, John (Yohanan) , Simon, Judah, Eleazar, 
and Jonathan, fled from its punishment into the 
mountains of Judea. 

In those days many in Israel sought out the wildei> 
ness. In order not to desecrate the holy covenant they 
went into the desert with "their sons, and their wives, 
and their cattle." Such passive resistance by flight 


was common in antiquity. If an Egyptian peasant 
was oppressed by taxes* a debtor harried by bis 
creditor, or later a Christian persecuted for his faith, 
they took this means of eluding the reach of the 
state, whose organization was not yet so perfected as 
to lay hold of them. They forsook house and land 
and lived as wretched vagabonds, as is said of the 
Maccabees, "after the manner of wild beasts in the 
mountains" But the state suffered a falling off in 
revenues as a result, and yielded more and more in 
the course of time, until finally an amnesty was pro- 
claimed. In the meanwhile, however, agents of the 
government sought to lay hands upon the fugitives. 
In 166 B.C.E. a search was instituted in Judea for 
those who had disregarded the King's command and 
had hidden themselves away in the wilderness. In 
this case the task of the police was rendered easy by 
a Jewish practice which seemed to the pagans the 
height of superstitious unreason. The Jews, lest they 
desecrate the day of rest, offered an attacker no re- 
sistance on the Sabbath. Thus in 312 B.C.E. Ptolemy 
of Egypt had been able to take possession of Jerusa- 
lem without a blow. Now, too, the fugitives made no 
attempt to defend themselves on the day of rest; they 
neither threw stones at the enemy nor walled up the 
caves in which they had sought safety, but preferred 


to die in order conscientiously to f nlfil the law of God 
for which they had forsaken their homes. 

Mattathias realized the situation: "If we all do as 
our brethren have done, and do not fight against the 
Gentiles for our lives and our ordinances, they wiH 
soon destroy us from off the earth.** Mattathias and 
his people therefore resolved, not indeed to attack, 
hut at least to defend themselves on the Sabbath day. 
This rule continued in force until the great uprising 
against the Romans (66-70 CE.) . 

To moderns this interpretation of the fourth com- 
mandment seems the "natural" one. But it was far 
from being so regarded in the days of the Maccabees, 
as appears most clearly from the fact that the Second 
Book of Maccabees, which was written in the Dias- 
pora, not only passes over the new resolution in 
silence but gives especial prominence to the observ- 
ance of the day of rest by the Jews. It is only in the 
second century of the Common Era that the rabbis 
put forward the general principle: "The Sabbath is 
given to man, not man to the Sabbath," 

Even more significant is the fact that Mattathias 
ventured to interpret the law upon his own author- 
ity. In his day this privilege was vested in the High 
Priest and his council, who governed Jerusalem and 
Judea. It was the High Priest to whom God had 


given "authority over statute and judgment, that he 
might teach His people statutes, and judgments unto 
the children of Israel." When Mattathias, a man pre- 
viously unknown, one priest among ten thousand, 
resolved to interpret the traditional law, to impose 
his interpretation upon the people, and thus to in- 
fringe upon the prerogatives of the High Priest, he 
raised himself, perhaps without intending to do so, 
to the position of an opposition government Hence 
his resolve constituted a turning point in Jewish his- 
tory. His measure immediately gave him the author- 
ity of a leader. The "community of the pious," a fra- 
ternity zealous for the law of God, joined him, and 
lub following was filled with those who fled the evil 
Those who had abandoned their homes in order not 
to depart from the law "either to the right hand or 
to the left** were united by that very measure which 
infringed the Torah for the Torah's sake. 

Strengthened by these additions, Mattathias deter- 
mined upon another deed which was pregnant with 
consequences. Hitherto, like the other fugitives, he 
had evaded the royal decrees in order to seek a 
refuge in the desert where he might fulfil the com- 
mandmentfi. Btit now the Maccabees determined to 
replace passive resistance by active struggle. They 
made a stealthy and roundabout entrance into the 


villages and summoned together those eager to fight; 
with the force thus formed they moved from place 
to place, destroying the idolatrous altars where they 
found them, compelling the observance of the Torah 
by force (for example, they circumcised newborn in- 
fants, as many as they found) , and smiting apostate 
violators of the law. Thus, as their historian relates, 
they liberated the Torah from the hand of the 

But, as is clear from this account, the wrath of the 
Maccabees was poured over the Jews and not the 
heathen. The company of the Maccabees was an 
active minority Daniel calls them "a little help" 
that sought to restore its law to the people. This law 
was in no sense an innovation, but the revelation of 
Moses. How came it about that this stiff-necked 
people backslid from the covenant of their fathers 
and suffered themselves to be seduced into worship 
of the pagan deities? Why did the struggle of tibe 
Maccabees turn into a civil war within the Jewish 
people? Why did it not rather become a single- 
hearted defense of the people against the persecu- 
tions of the Syrian king from without? 

Until the time of Alexander the Great each Orien- 
tal people constituted a disparate unit, dearly dif- 
ferentiated from the others. Even in such a situation 


cultures inevitably influenced one another: the Book 
of Ptoverbs in the Bible, for example, contains many 
thoughts and aphorisms borrowed from the Egyptian 
Wisdom Book of Amenemope, Under the domina- 
tion of the Persians especially, which lasted for two 
centuries, a great common store of beliefs and ideas 
developed among the various peoples. But there was 
no common supranational civilization; a Jew re- 
mained a Jew, as an Egyptian remained an Egyptian. 
With the Greek conquest of the East (330 B.C.E.) , 
however, the situation changed. From its beginnings 
Creek culture was supranational, because the Greeks 
never constituted a unified state. In the East, Greek 
colonists lost their tribal peculiarities so quickly that 
the innumerable Greek papyri of the period, dis- 
covered in Egypt, show no variations of dialect. The 
new states in the East were the creation of the Greek 
race of Macedonia, as Alexander himself was a Mace- 
donian. But their culture was Panhellenic, and was 
die same on the Nile as on the Euphrates. The Orien- 
tal civilizations, on the other hand, were always 
based upon concepts of folk and religion. A man was 
born an Egyptian or a Jew, or became such when he 
forsook his own gods and served new gods. "Thy 
people shall be my people, and thy God my God" 

says the Moabitess Ruth to her Israelite mother-in- 
law when she resolves to follow her. 

But Greek culture, like modern European culture, 
was based upon education. A man became a "Hel- 
lene" without at the same time forsaking his gods 
and his people, but merely by adopting Hellenic cul- 
ture. Qearchus, a disciple of Aristotle, represents his 
master as conducting a conversation with a pious Jew 
and as calling this Jew "a Greek man not only in 
language but also in spirit." A century later the 
great geographer Eratosthenes declared that men 
are not to be distinguished as Greek or barbarian, 
but rather according to their virtues or their vices. 

During the three centuries which we call Hellen- 
istic that is, the period between Alexander the 
Great and Emperor Augustus (330 to 30 B.C.E.) the 
notion of the "Hellene," like the modern notion of 
the "European," grew into a concept independent of 
descent. In Hellenistic Egypt the whole population 
was officially divided into two classes: the natives, 
called the "Egyptians," and the immigrants, called 
the "Hellenes," regardless of their origin. In point 
of fact, the immigrants were Hellenized with singu- 
lar rapidity. As early as the third century B.C.E. syna- 
gogues in Egypt were dedicated in honor of Greek 


kings, and the Scriptures were translated into Greek. 
What could be more Hellenic and more alien to the 
Orientals than physical culture? But about 220 
B.CJE, we find in a Samaritan settlement in Egypt a 
gymnasium endowed by a Cilician, whose heir was 
a Macedonian* 

In its tendency and in its claim, therefore, Hellen- 
istic culture was universal To it belonged the mighty 
of the world and the world's dominion. It was vested 
with the superiority that the judgment of war con- 
stantly reaffirmed. It was open to all Whether or not 
to accept this culture was therefore a question of 
life and death for every people. The nations of the 
ancient world were confronted by the same problem 
that confronts the Oriental peoples in the modern 
world from Tokyo to Cairo, whether to adopt the 
supranational and therefore superior European cul- 
ture, or else accept an inferior status, become fella- 
heen. In antiquity the problem was actually solved 
by only two peoples, the Romans and the Jews. Other 
peoples shut themselves off from Hellenism, and its 
effects upon them were therefore only negative: the 
native cultures were disintegrated and enfeebled. 
They lost their upper class, whose connection with 
the people had been ruptured by the process of Hel- 
lenizatiocu The Egyptians, for example, deprived of 


their upper class, their intellectual elite, for centuries 
lagged behind the inexorable march of history, and 
so suffered the fate of enslavement to foreign con- 
querors. "And there shall be no more a prince out 
of the land of Egypt." 

For Judaism, then, the question of its historical 
existence or disappearance depended upon its ability 
to accommodate itself to Western culture. But in the 
days of the Maccabees, as in the period of Moses Men- 
delssohn, the law interposed a wall between Jews 
and non-Jews. Nothing brings people closer together 
than a common table. But his dietary laws forbade 
the Jew to taste the food of his non-Jewish neighbor* 
There is no closer tie than the bond of matrimony. 
But the Jews told with approval the story of a father 
who abandoned his own daughter in order to free his 
brother from a passing attachment to a pagan danc- 
ing girl. To a man of the Hellenistic age this "separa- 
tion from the nations" could be regarded as nothing 
else than the expression of a Jewish "hatred of man- 
kind." Favorably disposed critics have endeavored 
to explain the withdrawal of the Jews from history 
as the consequence of the "bad experience of their 
expulsion from Egypt," and to exculpate it on such 
grounds; but no one outside Jewry itself has ever 
recognized positive merit in the separation. When 


the Jews declined to associate with pagan slave 
women, such an attitude seemed an invidious distinc- 
tion even to a friend of the Jews, who posed the 
question: "Are they not human heings like your- 

To "advanced" Jews, therefore, it seemed impera- 
tive to let these hars f all "In those days," we read in 
I Maccabees, "came there forth out of Israel lawless 
men, and persuaded many, saying, 'Let us go and 
make a covenant with the nations that are round 
about us ; for since we separated ourselves from them 
many evils have come upon us.* And the saying ap- 
peared good in their eyes." "In those days" denotes 
the reiga of the Syrian King Antiochus IV, surnamed 
Epiphanes (176-163 B.C.E.) . The new King entrusted 
the position of High Priest at the Temple in Jerusa- 
lem and hence the rule over Judea to men of that 
same "advanced" party, first to a man who called 
himself by the Greek name of Jason (about 175-172 
B.CJ&), then to Menelaus (172-162 B.C.E.). These 
Jewish "Hellenists" promptly received royal ap- 
proval for establishing a Greek community in Jerusa- 
lem, and with it permission to erect a gymnasium. In 
169, then, a regular Greek city, surrounded by walls 
and fortified by towers, was founded upon one of the 
hills of Jerusalem, opposite the Temple Mount The 


name of this city is unknown ; in our tradition it is re- 
ferred to simply as Acra, that is to say, the CitadeL 
Henceforward the Sanctuary was dependent npon 
this Greek city. This was only naturaL The Hellen- 
istic culture, understandably enough, had first af- 
fected the upper classes, the Jerusalemites and the 
priesthood. When the signal went up for the exer- 
cises upon the athletic field to hegin, it was the 
priests who hastened to the contests and surrendered 
their priestly linens for the nakedness of Greek 
sports, Greek marks of distinction were prized ahove 
old-fashioned, native honors. People strove to ap- 
pear wholly Greek externally, hy removing the 
marks of circumcision through a painful operation; 
inwardly, by participating in the games in honor of 
the foreign gods, and even hy contributing money 
for sacrifices to these gods. 

But the leaders of the party understood perfectly 
well that all this must remain merely a diversion of 
the upper classes as long as the Sanctuary ^remained 
inviolate and as long as the law enjoining "misan- 
thropic 9 * separation continued in force. like the 
Emancipation of the nineteenth century, that of the 
second century B.C.E. must have necessarily led to 
religious "reform.** But nineteenth-century Emanci- 
pation could in the end escape this necessity, for 


Occidental civilization as a whole had in the inter- 
val become secularized. 

All of ancient life was carried on within the frame- 
work of cult acts whose execution did not entail com- 
plete belief. No gymnasium could be without the 
images of such patron gods of athletics as Heracles 
and without honorific statues of the kings. Every 
public act was invariably accompanied by sacrifice 
and invariably involved prayer. To accept Western 
culture fully, therefore, there appeared no other al- 
ternatives than either to renounce the ancestral re- 
ligion, to which any participation in the cult of the 
gods was an abomination, or to transform the ancient 
law. Many Jews of antiquity chose the first course. 
Among them, for example, was Tiberius Julius Alex- 
ander, nephew of the Jewish philosopher, Philo, of 
Alexandria. Tiberius pursued a military and admin- 
istrative career that raised him to the highest sta- 
tions. Among other things, he was chief of staff to 
Titus at the conquest of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. 

Jason and Menelaus, in the reign of Epiphanes, 
wished to follow the other course; they desired to 
accommodate traditional Judaism to the times. Their 
intention was to preserve those characteristics of the 
Jewish religion which suited Greek taste the im- 
agelees God, for example but to remove everything 


which smacked of separation, of the "ghetto": Sab- 
bath observance, beards, circumcision, and that 
namelessness of God which was otherwise to be met 
with only among the most primitive peoples. 

Henceforth the Lord on Zion must bear a name 
which could be communicated to Greek friends who 
might inquire what manner of God it was that the 
people of Jerusalem worshipped. In Greek that name 
was Zeus Olympius. For some time the Jews had 
been in the habit of calling their God "Lord of 
Heaven," or even simply "Heaven," as is the regular 
practice in the First Book of Maccabees. But for the 
Greeks the Lord of Heaven was Zeus Olympius. In 
Aramaic the expression was probably Baal Shemin, 
under which title all the peoples of Syria worshipped 
the ruler of heaven. In this manner the "God of the 
Jews" was now accepted into the general pantheon. 
Now He was no longer worshipped in the dim light 
of the Holy of Holies, but under the open sky, in 
an enclosure, as was the practice in the most highly 
revered sanctuaries of Syria and in keeping with the 
Greek ideal. Even after its transformation, the cult 
naturally remained aniconic educated Greeks had 
long ridiculed the notion that the gods had a human 
form. But the presence of the Almighty was now 
symbolized by a "sacred stone" upon the sacrificial 


altar in the middle of the f orecourt of the Temple* 
All the requirements of the law concerning the sacri- 
ficial ritual were rescinded. The pig was now ap- 
proved as a sacrificial animal: prohibition of its use 
for sacrifice or food had seemed the most striking 
mark of Jewish separatism. 

After December of 167 B.C.E. sacrifices on Zion 
were carried out according to the new ritual. Offer- 
ings were made to the same God and on the same 
spot as formerly, hut the manner was new and in 
direct opposition to the old. Moreover, the God of 
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was no longer sole ruler 
in Jerusalem, Adaptation to the religious customs of 
the Greeks was impossible without the surrender of 
monotheism. And so the festivals of Dionysus were 
celebrated in Jerusalem, and perhaps Athene, too, 
figured among the new divinities; certainly the dei- 
fied kings of the ruling dynasty were included. 

At the same time the High Priest Menelaus pro- 
cured a decree from the King prohibiting the Mosaic 
law and ordering the introduction of pagan customs. 
Such a measure was in complete accord with the 
thought of the Greek social reformers, who, since 
Plato, had always regarded the lawgiver as the cre- 
ator of social life. According to the historical prin- 
ciples basic to Greek thought, Jewish law was the 


invention of Moses, enjoined by him upon his fol- 
lowers. If Menelaus now wished to impose his own 
law upon the people, his conduct could not be re- 
garded as improper. It was these measures that 
passed into the consciousness of contemporaries and 
posterity as the "persecutions of Epiphanes." With 
them the history of the Maccabees begins. 



Ifattathias* following knew nothing of "historical 
necessity" and prohably very little about the ideas of 
the reformers. The one thing plain to them was the 
fact of persecution: the Temple desecrated, the law 
abolished, and the Jews coerced into a pagan way 
of life. Against this persecution they defended them- 
selves to the death. When, during 166 (or at the be- 
ginning of 165), Mattathias died, leadership de- 
volved, we do not know why, upon the third of his 
living sons, Judah, surnamed the Maccabee. It is gen- 
erally assumed that the surname signifies "hammer." 
For two years Judah waged guerrilla war like his 
fatter, making surprise descents upon the apostates 
without venturing to attack any walled cities or the 
tyrant's stronghold in Jerusalem. Now he would ap- 
pear at Beth Horon (about five hours northwest of 
Jerusalem) , now at Modin, again at Mizpah, or at 


the Samaritan border. "And he was renowned unto 
the utmost part of the earth, and he gathered to- 
gether those who were perishing/* 

At first the central government paid no attention 
whatsoever to the Maccabean uprising. It must he re- 
membered that the Seleucid empire extended from 
Egypt to the Persian Gulf, and that disturbances of 
this nature flared up constantly at one point or an- 
other. The handful of the Maceahees could only he 
regarded as another robber band on the highways. 
But in the meanwhile Judah was steeling his com- 
pany in guerrilla warfare. He also gave it a regular 
organization by appointing "captains of thousands, 
and captains of hundreds, and captains of fifties, and 
captains of tens." It would appear that his force 
amounted to something more than three thousand 

It was important for the future course of events 
that the reform party made no attempt at mustering 
its strength to put an end, once and for all, to the 
activity of the marauders. Their failure is easy to 
understand if we reflect that they belonged to the 
upper strata of the people, being city dwellers and 
Jernsalemites, and did not particularly relish chas- 
ing after the Maccabees through gorges and over 
stony hills. The mass of the peasantry, on the other 


hand, remained secretly devoted to the old faith. 
Judah ruthlessly extirpated the few in the country- 
side who followed the reform party, hut at the same 
time he restored freedom of faith to the majority. 

Before a battle Judah's company fasted, clothed 
themselves in sackcloth, rent their garments, and 
prayed devoutly to the Lord of Hosts: "Behold, the 
Gentiles are gathered together against us to destroy 
us. . . * How shall we be able to stand before them 
unless Thou help us?" Could so devout a prayer 
arise from the ranks of the reform party to the Zeus 
Olympius who was the creature of their reason? 
Surely not. Here, too, the reformers "halted between 
two opinions." It is significant that when they once 
sait an offering of money to the Tyrian Heracles, the 
consciences of the messengers were smitten and in- 
stead of using the money for what had been in- 
tended, they contributed it in Tyre to the construc- 
tion of ships. 

The new pagans of Jerusalem, the "sons of Acra," 
sought protection against Judah from the Kong's 
officers, whom they assisted moreover with auxil- 
iaries, guides acquainted with the terrain, and the 
like. Judah defeated the troops that were sent 
against him, one after the other. When the Syrians 
were making a slow and laborious ascent to the pass 


of Beth Horon along the mountain path that led 
from the coastal plain to Jerusalem, they were sud- 
denly attacked by swarms of Maccabees, routed, and 
pursued the length of the slope into the lowland* 
Schooled by this defeat in the hills, another Syrian 
army took up a position in the plain near Emmaus. 
This afforded a convenient post for controlling the 
roads to Jerusalem. Judah made a halt near Mizpah 
in order to protect the road from Beth Horon to 
Jerusalem; during the night, under cover of the 
rough terrain, he led his company to a point south of 
Emmaus. The Syrian general planned to overwhelm 
the Maccabees by a surprise night attack. But while 
the King's troops were looking for Judah's forces in 
the hills, Judah made an attack at dawn upon the 
Syrian encampment at Emmaus. Later in the day, 
when the Syrian troops again approached Emmaus, 
they saw their camp in flames. They fled to the 
Philistine country. 

The success of Judah can be more readily under- 
stood if we reflect upon the difficulties that guerrilla 
warfare in a hill country presents even to modern 
regular troops. The Seleucid armies were composed 
largely of contingents of auxiliaries from various 
cities and peoples; the professional soldiery was 
employed only for more important enterprises. 


It was now, in the fall of 165, that Judah's suc- 
cesses began to disturb the central government. He 
appears to have controlled the road from Jaffa to 
Jerusalem, and thus to have cut off the royal party 
in Acra from direct communication witL the sea and 
thus with the government. It is significant that this 
time the Syrian troops, under the leadership of the 
governor-general Lysias, took the southerly route, 
by way of Iduxnea. They encamped at Beth Zur, a 
fortress about thirty kilometers south of Jerusalem 
(whose remains have recently been excavated) that 
was the key to Judea from the south. This new tactic 
proved correct. Judah was forced to quit his hiding 
place in the bills and hurry southward. According 
to Jewish historical tradition, he then and there de- 
feated Lysias, But certain other documents which 
happen to be preserved indicate that the situation 
was much more complicated than the Jewish his- 
torians represent it to have been. We see that the 
Maccabees sent deputies to Lysias to negotiate an 
understanding. Lysias promised to intercede for 
them with the King, if they would maintain their 
"good will towards the state." Menelaus, officiating 
High Priest and head of the reform party, intervened 
in the negotiations and appeared as mediator be- 
tween the King and the Jews. A Roman embassy, 


probably en route to Antioch, took the Jews* part 
and persuaded them to formulate their demands 
quickly so that they themselves might present them 
to the King. Thus it appears that all parties were 
concerned to make peace between the government 
and the insurgents. In point of fact, Epiphanes was 
at the moment engaged in a serious war in the East, 
the imperial treasury was again empty, and the ques- 
tion of whether the Jews would eat in accordance 
with or in opposition to their dietary laws must now 
have seemed of little consequence to the govern- 

And so Epiphanes resolved to call a halt to the 
persecutions. In a proclamation to the Sanhedrin 
and the Jewish nation, he declared that he had been 
informed by Menelaus that the Jews who had fled 
from their homes that is, those loyal to the ancient 
faith, amongst whom were the Maccabees desired 
to return to their legal abodes. Exemption from 
punishment was guaranteed all who returned by 
March 29, 164 B.C.&, and in addition the assurance 
was given that the Jews would be peiraitted "to use 
their own food and to observe their own laws as of 
yore." The persecution was thus ended* 

The edict makes no mention of the Maccabees, by 
as much as a syllable. It is represented as an act of 


royal grace, instigated by Menelaus. But such an 
interpretation could not conceal the true state of 
affairs. The cessation of the persecutions signified 
the defeat of Menelaus, who had heen their insti- 
gator, and the victory of the Maccahees something 
that must have seemed unbelievable to contem- 
poraries. David had again overcome Goliath. Only 
a year before the prophet Daniel could see no help 
except through a miraculous intervention of God, 
And yet Judah had won his victory with casual ir- 
regulars who were often lacking in such essential 
arms as sword and shield. How could the issue be 
interpreted as other than explicit confirmation of 
the leadership which the Maccabees had assumed ? 

From the beginning Judah comported himself as 
the lawful leader of his people. He put into force 
the law (Deut 20:5-8) according to which a man who 
had built a house or betrothed a wife or planted a 
vineyard or was fainthearted was released from serv- 
ice. His people conscientiously separated first fruits 
and tithes, but these could only be offered in the 
Sanctuary, and the Sanctuary was still in the hands 
of the reform party. Epiphanes* restoration of free- 
dom of conscience had only brought an end to the 
persecutions, but not to the rule of Menelaus and 


his friends. It was not to be expected that they would 
voluntarily surrender their position. 

Judah therefore determined to wrest their rule 
from them hy force. The tradition unfortunately 
leaves us in the dark as to where he and his people 
spent the summer of 164. It can he assumed that 
after the amnesty the majority of his men returned 
to their abandoned homes and fields. Hence it is 
probable that Judah re-enters history only toward 
the end of autumn, when work on the farm was 

At the end of 164, about the beginning of Decem- 
ber, he again assembled "the entire host" and made 
a sudden descent upon Jerusalem. To understand 
that such a surprise attack could promise success, it 
must be remembered that in 168 the central govern- 
ment had pulled down Jerusalem's city walls; the 
intention was to make the city completely dependent 
upon the citadel of Acra. It was this that made it 
possible for Judah, only four years later, to take pos- 
session of Jerusalem so easily. 

The first act of the conqueror was the purification 
of the Holy City of all traces of idolatry and the res- 
toration of the service of God in the Temple, Accord- 
ing to the Jewish calendar, it was Kislev 25, precisely 


three years after the reform party had offered the 
first pagan sacrifice upon the altar, that Judah again 
carried out, in early morning, the prescribed Tamid 
sacrifice in the ancient usage. "And all the people 
fell upon their faces, and worshipped, and gave 
praise unto heaven, to him who had prospered 
them." For eight days the rededication of the puri- 
fied altar was celebrated. Then "Judah and his 
brethren and the whole congregation of Israel 
ordained, that the days of the dedication of the altar 
should he kept in their seasons year by year for 
eight days, from the twenty-fifth day of the month 
Kislev, with gladness and joy." This celebration, 
which is the model for the annual festivals of dedi- 
cation in all churches, is Hanukkah, a word that 
literally signifies "dedication." But this name can be 
documented only from the first century C.E* Origi- 
nally the festival was called "Tabernacles (Sukkot) 
of the month of Kislev," so, for example, in an 
official communication from the Palestinian to the 
Egyptian Jews, dated 124 B.C.E. 

By instituting this festival Judah and his people 
declared themselves the true Israel Their act was 
one of far-reaching significance, for all previous 
festivals were prescribed in Scripture. Never had a 
festival been instituted in Israel by human hand. 

Even the restoration of the Temple after the Baby- 
lonian Exile had not been solemnized by the 
establishment of a day of commemoration. Judah's 
measure was therefore an innovation without prece- 
dent. On the other hand, it was in complete accord 
with the usage of the Gentiles. Among the Greeks it 
was usual for a generation, when it regarded an 
event in its own history as important, to believe it 
should be commemorated for all time. Thus Judah 
imitated the practice of his enemies, bnt at the 
same time incorporated it into Judaism. This was the 
first step along the path which was to constitute 
the historic mission of the Hasmoneans the intro- 
duction of Hellenic usages into Judaism without 
making a sacrifice of Judaism. No one any longer 
celebrates the Greek festivals that served as Judah's 
example. But the eight-branched candelabrum, a 
symbol, again, that imitates a pagan usage, is lighted 
on Kislev 25 the world over, in countries Judah 
never knew about, in Sidney as in New York, in 
Berlin as in Capetown. "And He saved thorn from 
the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed 
them from the hand of the enemy." 

Master now of Jerusalem, Judah at once built 
high walls and strong towers about Mount Zion, 
quartered troops in the fortifications to protect the 


Temple, and then fortified Beth Zur, which, as has 
been mentioned, protected the road to Jerusalem 
from the south. Thus, at the beginning of 163, Judah 
was master of Judea; only Acra remained as refuge 
and citadel for those loyal to the King. 

We do not know why the group about Menelaus 
remained so inactive throughout this entire period. 
Apparently the garrison in Acra was too weak to act 
independently and the central government was, as 
usual, little concerned with the affairs of Judea. 
Moreover, at this time Epiphanes suffered a serious 
reverse in Persia when he attempted to plunder an 
Oriental sanctuary in the hill country, and was lying 
sick at Ispahan. 

At the end of the winter of 163 B,C.E. Epiphanes 
died at Ispahan. About the same time Judah began 
the siege of Acra, already employing in this opera- 
tion the best equipment of the great armies of that 
period, siege towers and battering-rams of various 
types. An unknown fugitive four years before, Judah 
was now, though without office or title, ruler over 
the Jewish nation. From Acra urgent dispatches 
went out to the central government. The reform 
party complained, with perfect justice, that the gov- 
ernment was again leaving them, the group loyal to 
the King, in the lurch. "We were willing to serve thy 


father,* 9 the messengers said to the new king ? An- 
tiochus V Eupator, "and to walk after his words, 
and to follow his commandments. For this cause the 
children of our people besieged the citadel, and were 
alienated from us, and as many of us as they could 
light on they killed, and spoiled our inheritances." 

At the head of the new government there stood 
as regent the same Lysias with whom Judah had 
negotiated a year previously and who had promised 
the Jews his good will if they would continue loyal 
But in the meanwhile Judah had broken the peace 
and had taken advantage of the amnesty granted 
Kim to make himself master of Judea. The court at 
Antioch determined to dispose of the Maccabees 
once and for all. 

In the summer of 163 Lysias himself marched at 
the head of an army of professional soldiers through 
Idumea to Jerusalem in order to raise the siege of 
Acra. His way was barred by the citadel of Beth Zur t 
which Judah had in the meanwhile occupied. Lysias 
directed the siege of this fortress, and Judah, obliged 
to hasten to the assistance of his outposts, was forced 
to interrupt the siege of Acra. This was Lysias* first 
success. Near Beth Zechariah, halfway between 
Jerusalem and Beth Zur, where the hills merge into 
a plateau that permits the deployment of larger 


battle formations, Judah one morning came upon 
Lysias* superior army, which included cavalry, and 
even thirty-two elephants, arms that were wholly 
wanting to the Maccabees. The rising sun was re- 
flected in the gilt and brazen shields of the Syrian 
heavy infantry, so that "the mountains shone there- 
with, and blazed like torches of fire/* Judah's 
brother, Eleazar, vainly immolating himself in an 
effort to save his people, rushed into the ranks of 
the enemy and attacked the largest of the elephants, 
upon which he naively supposed the young king to 
be riding. The beast, transfixed, fell, crushing the 
hero. Judah's army was defeated and Beth Zur 

The royal army now reached Jerusalem un- 
hindered and laid siege to the fortified Mount Zion, 
where Judah and his people had taken refuge. In 
ancient times, before the use of explosives, every 
wall and every tower was an obstacle to the attacker. 
The besiegers therefore preferred to starve out 
rather than storm a besieged fortress. It was the sum- 
mer of a Sabbath year, in which, according to bib- 
lical law, nothing had been planted. Hence there 
were no considerable supplies in Zion. Judah's 
troops dispersed, each man to his own home. Only a 
mail company of the most faithful remained shut 

up in Zion under Judah's leadership. Ju<Jah*s life 
was in any case forfeit Moreover, we may surmise, 
he was firmly convinced that the God of Abraham, 
Isaac, and Jacob would not forsake him. In his 
desperate situation, therefore, Judah awaited a 
miracle, and the miracle came about. Expressed in 
untheological language, Judah's tenacity made it 
possible to expect a favorable turn in the situation, 
which, in the unforeseeable complications of life, 
might at any time take place. 

The deliverance of the besieged Maccabees on 
Mount Zion came about as result of Epiphanes* last 
act on his deathbed in Persian Ispahan. When the 
King marched to the east he had left the guardian- 
ship of his son and successor, a minor, to Lysias, who 
after the death of the King assumed the regency. But 
on his deathbed Epiphanes had appointed another 
general, named Philip, as regent of his realm. And so 
it came about, approximately in February of 162, 
that while Lysias was occupied with the siege of 
Zion, he received word that Philip was approaching 
Antioch at the head of the army of the east to secure 
the overlordship for himself. Lysias found it neces- 
sary to withdraw in great haste, and so quickly made 
a peace with the beleaguered Judah. 

Formally considered, the "peace 15 amounts on tibe 


one hand to a capitulation on the part of Judah, and 
on the other, to a remission on the part of the King. 
In actuality, its basis was an understanding between 
Lysias and Judah which was tantamount to a restora- 
tion of the conditions that had obtained in Judea 
prior to Epiphanes. The King's remission was ad- 
dressed to Lysias, and solemnly proclaimed renunci- 
ation of the policy of Epiphanes. "As for our Jewish 
subject*^** the new King wrote, "we understand that 
they object to our father's project of bringing them 
over to Hellenism, preferring their own ways of life 
and asking permission to follow their own customs," 
and he was of the resolve "that the subjects of the 
realm should live undisturbed and attend to their 
own concerns.** He agreed "to give them back their 
temple and to permit them to live after the manner 
of their ancestors.** 

A year earlier the government had consented to 
tolerate the Jewish religion; now the dominion of 
the Torah was fully restored. According to the de- 
cree of 163, those Jews who wished to do so might 
give obedience to the Jewish law. The new decree of 
162 again obliged the entire people to observe this 
law* This marked the consummation of the victory 
of orthodox Judaism. For centuries thereafter the 
Jews celebrated the recurrence of this day (Shevat 


28) "upon which King Antiochus withdrew from 

The consequences of the peace of 162 were two- 
fold. For one thing, it marked the end of the reform 
party. Its chief, the former High Priesl Menelaus, 
was executed upon the King's orders, "for that he 
was the cause of all the evil in that he persuaded 
Epiphanes to abolish the ancestral constitution of 
the Jews." This was the ground on which the verdict 
was based. The remaining partisans of reform, who 
continued to find refuge in the Acra, had in the 
meanwhile lost all touch with Judaism. The re- 
formers had now become apostates. 

On the other hand, the task of the Maccabees also 
seemed to have been completed. The government 
had deserted the reform party, traditional Judaism 
had been recognized as alone valid, and the condi- 
tions which had obtained before the promulgation 
of Epiphanes* measures were thus restored. The 
rebellion of the Jews now seemed pointless and at 
an end. "Now therefore let us give the right hand to 
these men, and make peace with them, and with all 
their nation; and let us settle with them thait they 
be permitted to walk after their own laws, m afore- 
time; for because of their laws which we abolished 
were they angered, and did all these things.** This 


opinion of the young King's counselors proved cor- 
rect Judah was deserted by his partisans. The gov- 
ernment appointed a new High Priest, a member of 
the previous high-priestly family called Jakim, who 
then Eellenized his name into Alcimus. The govern- 
ment even caused an assembly of scribes to be con- 
voked so that it might confirm, after exhaustive 
investigation, that Alcinras was in fact the legitimate 
prince. The Hasidim, the "Pious," a group known 
for the strictness of its faith and who had been the 
first to join Mattathias, these very Hasidim were 
now the first to recognize Alcimus. From thjg time 
forward, supported by a royal guard, Alcimus ruled 
over Judea, and his power was so secure that he 
could without misgivings cause the execution of sixty 
of the "Pious** who had shown themselves rebellious. 
Once again the burnt offering for the reigning king 
was daily offered upon Zion. 

At first Judah again retired into the mountains. 
But when a new revolution took place in Antioch 
Antiochus V was overthrown by his cousin, Deme- 
trius I Judah took advantage of the occasion to 
reappear in Jerusalem. He took possession of the 
Sanctuary and even prevented Alcimus from ap- 
proaching the altar. Judah's supporters maintained 
that Alcimus had "voluntarily polluted himself" in 


the time of Epiphanes; that is, without being com- 
pelled to do so, he had participated in pagan festi- 
vals and sacrifices. Was snch a man now eligible ta 
perform the service of God? The question was one 
of conscience, fought out by zealots and moderates, 
similar to the question which later arose among the 
early Christians during the time of persecutions: 
Can there be f orgiveness for apostasy? We know that 
the various answers to this question led to numerous 
schisms within the Church and to reciprocal ex- 
communications. It is therefore not surprising that 
Judah and his followers refused to recognize Al- 
cimus, even after an assembly of sages convoked by 
the government had pronounced in favor of Alainus* 

This time the cleavage in the Jewish people was 
quite different from that in the days of Epiphanes. 
The struggle no longer concerned the validity of the 
Torah but whether or not Alcimus was justified in 
functioning as High Priest. As in the case of anal- 
ogous divisions in the Church, the preponderant 
majority inclined to the latitudinarian view and 
recognized Alcimus. The former friends of the Mao- 
cabees were now transformed into enemies, "apos- 
tates. 9 * Civil strife began anew. Judah again marched 
forth. He swept through all the territory of Judea, 


taking vengeance upon his enemies and punishing 
the "apostates" who were worse than pagans in his 

Twice Alcimns went to the royal court to request 
the government's help against the Maccabees, "who 
are keeping up the feud and stirring sedition; they 
will not let the kingdom settle down in peace." But 
Demetrius was entirely taken up with other difficul- 
ties, especially with the uprising of the satrap 
Timarchus, who, with Roman support, had wrested 
Mesopotamia from the King. Finally the King sent 
out one of his generals, Nicanor, with orders to take 
the Maccahees captive. Nicanor first sought to lay 
hands on Judah by cunning; hut when the attempt 
miscarried, he marched his troops out of Jerusalem 
into the neighborhood of Beth Horon, where he was 
joined by troops from Syria, He himself led a levy 
of Jews loyal to the King out of Jerusalem. Because 
his troops were Jewish, he was constrained, much 
against his will, to abandon his intention of attack- 
ing Judah on the Sabbath. This was approximately 
in the month of March, 161 B.CJE. 

Hie political situation had rapidly changed. It 
was only four years before that the government had 
punished the observance of the day of rest with 
death, and those wishing to hallow the Sabbath had 

sought help and refuge with Judah. Now they 
marched side by side with pagan soldiers m the 
attempt to capture Judah and send hi*n to Ms death. 
At Adasa, northwest of Beth Horon, an hour and a 
half north of Jerusalem, where the road narrows as 
it passes through the hiTIa, the opposing forces en- 
countered one another. Judah's troops again proved 
far superior to the city levies. Nicanor fell on the 
field of battle and his army fled. Judah besieged 
Jerusalem and the Sanctuary a second time, and 
again had the day of his victory (Adar 13} entered 
in the calendar of festivals. This amounted to a 
demonstration that Judah and his followers repre- 
sented the true Israel. For the first time in the his- 
tory of Jacob a day in a war between brothers was 
declared a joyous festival This example was later 
followed by the Pharisees, who upon occasion 
abused the function of festivals by instituting anti- 
Sadducee memorial days. All of these festivals* ***- 
duding the Day of Nicanor, have been forgotten. But 
the historian must point out that by instituting fes- 
tivals of this nature Judah no leas than the Pharisees 
was consciously or unconsciously imitating the ex- 
ample of the Greeks. 

The victory over Nicanor in March 161 made 
Judah master of tlie country once again. He was not 


the only rebel in the empire. The prince of Greater 
Armenia, the governor of Commagene, and, above 
all, Timarchus, satrap of Media and Babylonia, had 
renounced their allegiance to King Demetrius L 
These defections were facilitated by the Roman 
Senate, which refused to recognize Demetrius, sup- 
ported his opponents, and finally concluded an alli- 
ance with Timarchus. 

What did Judah know of Rome? The First Book 
of Maccabees represents him as having heard of the 
great reputation of the Roman people, "that they 
were valiant men, and that they were friendly dis- 
posed towards all who attached themselves to them, 
and that they offered friendship to as many as came 
unto them.** That was enough for him. An exact 
knowledge of the details of a situation is often un- 
necessary, frequently even a hindrance, to resolute 
action. Judah knew that a Roman embassy had once 
before helped him (in 164 B.C.E.) ; he knew too that 
Whomsoever they will to succor and to make kings, 
become kings; and that whomsoever they will, do 
they depose." He therefore sent emissaries to Rome, 
They were well received and the Senate, which, as 
we have seen, was anxious to cause Demetrius I all 
possible difficulty, approved the treaty that was con- 
cluded, not, to be sure, with Judah and his brothers, 

but with the "nation of the Jews," "When the Jews 
rebelled against Demetrius I," an ancient historian 
writes, "and sought the friendship of Rome, they 
were the first of all Oriental peoples to receive a 
grant of freedom; the Romans were generous in dis- 
bursing what was not theirs.** In any case, for the 
first time since the Exile the Jews were recognized 
as an independent power, and by the very people 
that ruled the world. 

Christian theologians have often wondered at the 
fact that Judah, who was so zealous in the service of 
the Lord, made a treaty with and sought security 
through a pagan power, despite all the admonitions 
of the prophets. It must be said that there is ground 
for such wonder. The Maccabees had again taken a 
step that brought them nearer to the pagan world; 
they had again accommodated devout Judaism to 
the ways of the nations. 

It may be argued that the Roman alliance, which 
was Judah's greatest success, became the immediate 
cause of his downfall. The Seleucid government 
could look on calmly at the occasional successes of 
a guerrilla chief, in expectation of a favorable mo- 
ment for delivering a blow. But when Judah became 
a protege of Rome, it seemed essential to act at once. 
Judah's emissaries returned to Jerusalem towards 


the end of the summer of 161. In the first month of 
the following spring, as soon as the rainy season was 
ended, the King's general Bacchides, accompanied 
by Alcimns and at the head of a regular army, moved 
through Galilee towards Jerusalem. As always, the 
professional soldiers were qualitatively far superior 
to the Maccahean irregulars. When the Syrians ap- 
proached, the greater part of the Maccabean levy, 
which amounted to three thousand men, fled. Only 
eight hundred remained with Judah, and "he was 
sore troubled in heart." Friends advised him to avoid 
the battle, and their counsel was undoubtedly stra- 
tegically sound. But he preferred death in battle, 
and fell fighting, "All Israel made great lamentation 
for hfrn and mourned many days, and said: *How is 
the mighty one fallen, the savior of Israel!* " 

Israel quickly forgot Judah. In the Talmud he is 
nowhere mentioned. In Megillat Antiochus, a post- 
talmudic (and quite spiritless) account that was read 
at the Hanukkah festival in the Middle Ages, Mat- 
tathias and his grandson, John Hyrcanus but not 
Judah are the principal figures. It was only during 
the Middle Ages, thanks to the Hebrew compilation 
called Josippon, composed on the basis of the writ- 
ings of Josephus, that Judah again became a hero 
for the Jews, The Christian world, which had taken 


the Books of Maccabees into their Holy Scripttire, 
meanwhile honored Judah as a paragon of knight- 
hood. Even today the statue of Judah may be seen in 
the principal market place of Nuremberg. His figure, 
along with those of eight other heroes (three pagans, 
three Jews, three Christians) , decorates the Schone 
Brunnen (1385), a masterpiece of the age of 



Judah fell in April 160 RCJE. After his death "the 
lawless put forth their heads in all the borders of 
Israel, and all they that wrought iniquity rose up." 
The partisans of Judah were tracked down every- 
where and large numbers were executed. A system 
erf garrisoning instituted hy the Syrians provided for 
the peace and order of the country. Jonathan, 
Judah's brother and successor, again became the 
simple chief of a band, and sought refuge now in the 
wilderness of Tekoa and now in Trans-Jordan. Not 
much more can be told of his deeds during this 
period than an attack upon an Arab wedding pro- 
cession to avenge the death of his brother John. 
Finally, about 156, he grew weary of the life of an 
outlaw. He too made his peace with the government, 
gave hostages for his good conduct, and received 
Michmash, a place west of Jericho, as his place of 
residence. Here "he began to judge the people/' that 
is to say, he was recognized by the government as 
sheik of the village. In ancient times, and even later, 


this was the lot that many an Oriental leader of a 
troop earned in the decline of his life; in this way 
he was assured a secure benefice. "And the sword 
ceased from Israel." 

Eight years elapsed after the death of Judah he- 
fore the Maccabees again entered history. It was the 
Syrians who aroused Jonathan from his slumbers in 
Michmash. In 152 B.C.R. a pretender called Alexander 
Balas arose against the reigning king, Demetrius I, 
the conqueror of Judah. Alexander Balas landed at 
Acco and its garrison went over to him* Demetrius 
was in great straits, for the Roman Senate had rec- 
ognized Alexander, and the kings of Egypt, Per- 
gamum, and Cappadocia supported him. This made 
it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Deme- 
trius to obtain soldiers abroad. The King recprired 
reliable troops immediately. What could be more 
natural than to turn to his warlike Jewish subjects 
and there enlist the necessary warriors? Twenty cen- 
turies ago the highland Jews of Palestine were rough 
peasants and shepherds who had grown up in an 
inhospitable country; they were known for their 
boldness and ruthlessness in war, and like the Arabs 
they terrified neighboring agricultural countries by 
their inroads. As soon as they gained a footing on the 


coast under Jonathan, we find pirates among them. 
All in aU, they were excellent soldiers, loyal to their 
oath of fealty, whose only inconvenience was their 
numerous "superstitions," as for example the appar- 
ently stupid custom of observing complete rest every 
seventh day, a hahit whose purpose no Greek was 
able to fathom. 

But an inexcusable blunder on the part of the cen- 
tral government had left Jewry at this juncture with 
no legitimate prince. After the death of Alcimus in 
the spring of 159, no successor had been named. 
There was only one man who commanded sufficient 
authority among the Jews to muster an army for 
Demetrius L This was Jonathan, Judah's brother and 
heir. Demetrius gave Jonathan full power to collect 

Jonathan naturally used the opportunity first to 
secure Ins own position he occupied Jerusalem and 
fortified Zion anew. Syrian garrisons continued only 
in Acra and in Beth Zur. Naturally, too, Alexander 
Balas now sought to draw the Jewish leader over to 
his side, Jonathan demanded his price, and it was 
given Trim. At the Feast of Tabernacles in 152 B.C.E. 
he clothed himself, by the authority of Alexander 
Balas, in the sacred vestments of the High Priest 


Judah had fought bitterly against the High Priest 
Alcimus because he was "polluted," Eight years later 
Jonathan raised himself to the position of Hi|fo 
Priest, despite the fact that he was not a member of 
the Zadokite family to which the office appertained. 
For the priest to obtain his position from the secular 
power was a Greek custom. Once again those who 
fought for the Torah accommodated the law to Gen- 
tile practices, while the legitimate High Priest (by 
right of descent) performed the service in a rump 
temple in Egypt. 

Jonathan's fantastic rise in the few months of the 
autumn of 152 B.C. from petty chieftain to High 
Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem and prince in 
Israel ushers in a chapter in the history of the Mac- 
cabees which, except for the identity of the family, 
has little in common with the previous course of 
their destiny. Judah's lifework had been to prevent 
the threatening Hellenization of Judaism and the 
surrender of the Torah. He succeeded, and gave hia 
life to his success. Jonathan and his successors, his 
brother Simon and Simon's descendants, will now 
seek to accommodate Hellenism to Judaism- Under 
them Judea becomes a Hellenistic principality. 

This development began with Jonathan's becom- 


ing involved in international politics. Perhaps this 
involvement was at first a matter of necessity. As 
prince of Judea he was forced to choose among the 
pretenders who throughout his entire reign com- 
peted for the crown of Syria. But this meant that for 
the first time since the destruction of the First 
Temple and the Babylonian Exile (586) Judea he- 
came an active member of the family of nations. 

Jonathan's first task was to maintain himself. This 
required that he watch the political currents and 
keep in touch with the pagan princes; but it also 
meant that he had to sacrifice the blood of Jews for 
the cause of one or the other of the pretenders. He 
became a Seleucid official, a strategos and governor 
of a province ; he received a court title and wore the 
purple reserved for the "friends of the king." At 
one time he sent the government three thousand men 
to suppress an insurrection in Antioch. They set the 
city on fire, slew everyone who fell into their hands, 
and plundered at wilL It can be imagined with what 
relish these peasants and shepherds pillaged the 
pagan city. 

Jonathan's second endeavor was to secure his posi- 
tion in Jerusalem. He had many enemies in Judea, 
of course, who took every opportunity to complain 
of him to the government. The Greek city of Acra 


and its citadel remained a constant threat to his rear. 
At one time he sought to take it by force, another 
time to negotiate for it with the government. But the 
kings in Antioch, as soon as they came to power, held 
fast to this stronghold by which they were able to 
control Jonathan. 

Finally he proceeded to round out the boundaries 
of his principality; it is significant that what he 
sought first of all was access to the sea. His brother, 
who also obtained official preferment and was pro- 
moted to the governorship of the (at that time) 
non-Jewish coastal region, took advantage of the 
opportunity to place a Jewish garrison in the pagan 
city of Jaffa, in order to forestall the city's going over 
to a pretender to the throne. 

It is superfluous to describe in this place the 
campaigns and political combinations in which 
Jonathan, and after his death his brother and succes- 
sor, Simon, engaged. (Jonathan was taken captive 
and murdered at the end of 143 by a Syrian pre- 
tender.) They fought battles as candottieri now of 
one and now of another of the Seleucids against their 
opponents, and always found a reason to shift their 
allegiance as circumstances demanded. Meanwhile 
they strengthened the position of their house in 
Judea. Thus they succeeded in getting into their 


power all important fortresses, such as Beth Zur, 
Gezer, and, finally, Acra in Jerusalem this last on 
lyar 23 (about May) 141. During the same period 
and by the same means, veering between kings and 
counterkings, many other leaders succeeded in estab- 
lishing principalities in Syria. 

But in two respects the work of Jonathan and of 
Simon was different from that of their rivals. For one 
thing, they preceded the others, who came up in the 
following generation* Next, and in particular, the 
Maccabees not only established their personal au- 
thority but also extended the power of their people. 
The basis of their rule was national, or more prop- 
erly, religious. When Simon won Gezer or Acra, he 
expelled the pagan inhabitants, purified the place of 
"^pollution," and settled it with Jews. 

The results of Jonathan's and Simon's activity 
may accordingly be summarized somewhat as fol- 
lows: In 152, when Jonathan was installed as High 
Priest, the boundaries of Judea were the Jordan and 
the Dead Sea on the east; the meridian of Modin 
(approximately) on the west; Beth Horon and 
Bethel to the north; and in the south, Beth Zur. 
Jonathan added to this three districts of southern 
Samaria, and also Lydda and Ekron* Simon acquired 
the great plain, the seacoast from Jaffa to Ascalon, 


and Hebron in the south. In fifteen years the extent 
of the area subject to Jerusalem was approximately 
doubled; not only the hill country but the fertile 
plain now became Jewish and Jerusalem was pro- 
vided with its hairbors. 

Their political success consisted in the emancipa- 
tion of the Jews from the rule of the Seleucids. In 
May 142 Simon obtained Israel's complete freedom 
from tribute. "Theref ore was the yoke of the heathen 
taken away from Israel" Public documents began 
to be dated according to the years of Simon. A year 
later the Hellenistic city and the citadel in Jeru- 
salem, Acra, was taken. In the year 139 Simon re- 
ceived the royal privilege of striking (copper) coins 
in his own name. On Elul 18 (about September) of 
the preceding year (140 B.CE.) "in a great congrega- 
tion of priests and people and princes of the nation, 
and of the elders of the country,** it was determined 
that Simon should be "their leader and High Priest 
for ever.** Heretofore the legal basis f or the power 
of the Maccabean princes had been royal appoint- 
ment. Now the role of Simon and of his successors 
rested upon the decision of the people itself; hence 
Simon assumed the new title, "Prince of the People** 
(Ethnarch). But lest the people in its fickleness 
change its mind, it was also resolved that no one 


should be permitted to alter this law or to convoke 
assemblies without Simon's consent. 

These various successes the Jews owed not so 
much to their own strength as to the adroitness of 
their leaders, Jonathan the "Sly" (so is his nickname 
Aphphus probably to be interpreted) and his 
brother, the Ethnarch Simon. Jonathan and Simon 
made their conquests as candottieri of the pretenders 
to the Syrian throne, whose partisans threw the gates 
of the rebellious cities open to them. Only in such a 
manner was it possible for Jonathan, for example, to 
subjugate a city like Gaza which would ordinarily 
have required a siege of years merely by devastat- 
ing the surrounding countryside. This signified only 
that the city had attached itself to King Antiochus 
VI, who was represented by Jonathan, and not at all 
that it had surrendered to the Jews. Although Jona- 
than and Simon after him continued to hold the 
cities they had won, garrisoning them for security, it 
was clear that as soon as the dynastic struggles of the 
Seleucids ended they would have to restore their con- 
quests to their legitimate suzerains. Jonathan and 
Simon gambled on the wars of the pretenders never 
ending. On the whole, they were quite right, but a 
temporary consolidation of Seleucid power never- 
theless robbed the Maccabees of their gains, and 


forced John Hyrcanus, the son and successor of 
Simon, to revolutionize the foreign policy erf" his 
house and hence also the internal structure of the 

In the year 139 there appeared a new pretender in 
Syria, Antiochus VII Sidetes, son of that Demetrius 
I who had crushed the insurrection of Judah the 
Maccabee. Antiochus was forced to wage war against 
Tryphon, a general who had proclaimed himself 
Icing and had removed the former ruler, Antiodms 
VI, an illegitimate grandson of Epiphanes. 

While yet upon his way to Syria, Antiochus VH 
confirmed all of Simon's former privileges and in 
addition granted him the right to strike coins of 
small denomination "for thy country with thine own 
stamp.** But when he arrived in Syria he immedi- 
ately made a demand upon Simon either to surrender 
the cities outside Judea, such as Jaffa and Gezer, 
and, significantly, Acra in Jerusalem, or to make a 
single payment of a thousand talents of silver in 
compensation. Simon replied: "We have neither 
taken other men's land, nor have we possession of 
that which appertained! to others, but of the in- 
heritance of our fathers; howheit, it was had in 
possession of our enemies wrongfully for a certain 
time. But we, having the opportunity, hold f ast the 


inheritance of our fathers. " Only for Jaffa, which 
had never been Jewish, and for Gezer did he offer 
compensation, in the stun of a hundred talents. Thus, 
though his argument was not wholly consistent, he 
opposed an historical claim to the land of his fathers 
to the Eong's title in law. 

Antiochus VII was occupied with the campaign 
against Tryphon and so at first was able only to 
dispatch one of his officers as commander of the 
coastal area to prevent further expansion on the 
part of the Jews. His general Cendehaieus made 
Jabneh his base of operations and built the fortress 
of Kedron (now the village Katra) between Jabneh 
and Aehdod. From these bases he made incursions 
into Jewish territory; these were met more or less 
successfully by the Maccabees, and avenged by coun- 
terincursions. It was not until the summer of 134, 
after the death of Simon (who was murdered in 
February by his own son-in-law), that Antiochus 
VII personally led his army against Jerusalem, 
where in the meantime John (Yohanan) Hyrcanus, 
the son and heir of Simon, had assumed the rule. 
As always, the Jewish levy broke down in the face 
of the professional army of the King. By November 
Antiochus stood before Jerusalem and directed its 
iege. A double trench now cut off Jerusalem from 
all approach. Following a customary practice in 


ancient sieges, Hyrcanus expelled noncombatante 
from the Holy City in order to reduce the number of 
mouths that had to he fed. For the same reason 
Antiochus sent them hack, and they wandered back 
and forth between the two armies. It was not until 
the Feast of Tabernacles in the f aH of 133 that Hyr- 
canus received them back into the city. He also re- 
quested a seven days* truce of Antiochus because of 
the festival. Antiochus consented and even sent 
sacrificial animals, which were naturally wanting in 
the beleaguered city. In this manner negotiations 
were initiated. Hyrcanus was forced to capitulate. In 
the negotiations, however, the Kjpg confirmed the 
autonomy of the Jews and the position of Hyrcanus; 
but the walls of Jerusalem were pulled down. Hyr- 
canus was required to provide hostages, pay tribute, 
and yield up all the conquests of the Maccabees out- 
side Judea. Even Gezer was taken from him. In 130 
he was required to accompany the King upon his 
Parthian campaign with a Jewish levy. The achieve- 
ment of Jonathan and Simon seemed to have been 
destroyed at a single blow. Jerusalem was again a 
dependent city, as in the days of Epiphanes and 
Demetrius L But now the High Priest was not of the 
legitimate house, but was a grandson of that Mat- 
tathias who, thirty years previously, had begem the 
insurrection against the great-uncle of Antiochus VIL 



Antiochus VII fell in his Parthian campaign (129 
B.C.E.). A new epoch of confusion in the succession 
began in the Seleucid empire. The pretenders were 
now entirely without authority; each city and each 
tyrant pursued his own policy. The period of veer- 
ing and tacking, the period of the tactics of Jonathan 
and Simon, was at an end. Upon the throne of the 
Maccabees now sat the representative of a new gen- 
eration, John Hyrcanus, whose Greek name was 
apparently Alexander. He was born after the period 
of the persecutions; it was later thrown up to him 
that his mother had been a war captive under Epi- 
phanes, and that her marriage to the priest Simon 
had therefore not been permissible. He was only a 
child when his uncle Jonathan became High Priest 
in the fall of 152. That he would obtain power was 
thug for him a foregone conclusion. Under his father 
he had been governor of Gezer. But the religious war, 

the straggle against the reform party, the hatred of 
the Greek oppressor all that had inspired the sons 
of Mattathias, despite everything, to the end of their 
days seemed to him strange and remote. 

John Hyrcanns became a Hellenistic prince like 
his contemporaries and rivals, Zeno Cotylas in Rab- 
bath Ammon (modern Amman) in Trans-Jordan, 
Erotimus, King of the Nabateans, and others. Each 
of them strove to expand his domain without trou- 
bling in the least about the Seleucids. Hyrcanns too 
became fully independent of the Seleucids; "Neither 
as subject nor as friend did he yield them aught." 
Unlike his uncle and his father, Hyrcanus wished to 
stand entirely upon his own feet , 

But for this the first requisite was an effective 
army. The Jewish levy was as incompetent in the 
plain particularly against the professional armies 
recruited from the Grecized cities of the coast as 
it was superior in its native hills. How were these 
primitively armed Jewish shepherds to stand against 
the heavily armed horse and foot of the professional 
armies when the scene of battle was transferred to 
the level country "where there is neither stone nor 
flint, nor any place to flee unto"? But John wished to 
regain the plain and the coastal regions which he 
had lost in the peace pact of 133, and now there was 


no pretender to the throne whose protection could 
open the gates of the Greek cities to him. He had to 
organize a professional army, and that meant that 
he must recruit foreign soldiers. Immediately after 
the peace of 133, so it is said, in order to procure 
funds to hire mercenaries he opened the tomh of 
David and removed the treasures allegedly hidden 
there. This put an end to the popular period of the 
Maccabean monarchy. The prince now possessed an 
armed force alien to the people and obedient to him 

With these mercenaries, supplemented, of course, 
hy native levies, Hyrcanus succeeded within twenty- 
five years in raising Judea to the position of the 
most significant military power in Syria. The course 
of his conquests is little known. He may have suf- 
fered frequent setbacks. We learn from two Roman 
documents of the period, for example, that in 132 
the Jews sought Roman intervention to procure the 
restoration "of Jaffa, the harbors [that is, the land- 
ing places between Jabneh and Gaza], Gezer, Pegae, 
and other of their cities and localities which Anti- 
ochus had taken by force of arms contrary to the 
de<sree of the Senate." The reference was to the war 
against Antiochus VIL But about 110 we find them 
again complaining in Rome that Antiochus IX "had 

taken their fortresses and harbors and land.** Soon 
Hyrcanus succeeded in winning back these **hai> 
bors," and the Jews besought the Roman Senate for 
protection "for their land and their harbors." 

All this makes it plain how spirited was the strug- 
gle between the Jews and their opponents for access 
to the Mediterranean. At the turn of the century, in 
any case, the Jews were firmly established on the 
coast* Hyrcanus' realm extended as far north as Car- 
mel He was able to subjugate the hated Samaritans, 
and destroyed their temple on Mount Gerizmu Gali- 
lee was incorporated in the princedom and assigned 
as residence to Alexander Jannaeus, the younger son 
of Hyrcanus. In the south the Idumeans were sub- 
jugated. They accepted circumcision and the Torah 
and soon became complete Jews* When Hyrcanus 
died he left his son and successor, Judah Aristobu- 
lus, a territory which stretched from the north of 
Galilee to Masada, and from the sea to the Jordan. 

Aristobulus reigned for only one year (104 to 
103) , and was succeeded by his brother, Alexander 
Jannaeus. Jannaeus continued his father's policy 
and waged incessant war against the neighboring 
cities and princes. At his death (76 B.CJE.) the entire 
coast, with the exception of Ascalon, from the border 
of Egypt to Carmel was under his sway. He woe 


Trans-Jordan, which at that time contained numer- 
ous flourishing Greek settlements. "The land be- 
tween Gaza and Lebanon is called Judea," wrote a 
Greek geographer of the time. Palestine, "from Dan 
to Beersheba," was Jewish again. The biblical 
prophecies of happiness and prosperity seemed to 
have been fulfilled. But they were realized after 
Judea had become a Hellenistic princedom, and, 
after Aristobulus, a Hellenistic kingdom. It was this 
that provided the strength with which to conquer, 
but it was also this that was the inward reason for 
the dissolution of the new realm. 




Today it is passible for us to observe the process of 
Hellenization in individual features only. But these 
features are sufficiently significant to enable those 
who wish and are able to do so, to grasp the unity 
of the historical reality. 

A first indication of "assimilation** is the accom- 
modation of proper names to the taste of the sur- 
rounding world. The leaders of the reform party 
called themselves Jason instead of Jeshu, Henelaus 
instead of Onias; the real name of the High Prieat 
Alcimus was Jakim. The Maccabees, on the other 
hand, bore purely Hebrew names. Mattathias, son 
of Yohanan, son of Simon, called his children 
Yohanan (John) , Simon, Judah, Eleazar, Jonathan. 
His companions in the struggle were called Joseph, 
Azariah, Mattathias, Judah. When emissaries were 
to be sent to Rome, to be sure, they had to be persons 
fluent in Greek, and they bore such names as Jason 


and Eupolemus* But already Simon's son-in-law was 
called Ptolemaeus, and the sons of John Hyrcanus, 
Simon's grandson, had double names, Aristobulus- 
Judah, Alexander Jannaens (Yannay, a short form 
of Jonathan) . John Hyrcanus and Aristobulus struck 
their coins only in Hebrew; Jannaeus* coins are 
bilingual, bearing "King Jonathan* 5 in Hebrew and 
"King Alexander" in Greek, 

These coins were struck about 100 B.C.E. But forty 
years earlier, when the struggle with the Seleucids 
was still being waged, the Maccabees, who are cus- 
tomarily regarded as the bitter enemies and de- 
stroyers of Hellenistic culture, proclaimed the 
adherence of the Jewish people to the Hellenistic 
world. This took place in 143, under the High Priest 

From the time of Alexander the Great, Greeks had 
been masters of the East. It was natural that the 
peoples and tribes of the East endeavored, by means 
of more or less skilfully contrived genealogical con- 
structions, to attach themselves to the Greek people 
and to profess a kinship with them. Such a connec- 
tion constituted, as it were, a ticket of admission to 
European culture. Thus, for example, the Pisidian 
city of Selge and the Lydian settlement of Cibyra in 
Caria, both mixed "barbarian" settlements in south- 

west Asia Minor, declared themselves to !>e Spartan 
colonies. In the year 126-125 Phoenician Tyre of- 
ficially informed the Delphians of their kinship with 
them. Such derivations were promoted and facili- 
tated by the tendencies of Greek science to ImV all 
new peoples, more or less naively, with those already 
known. The medieval practice of fitting newly dis- 
covered races into the framework of the biblical 
roll of nations (Gen, 10) is analogous. On the basis 
of an ingenious combination Greek scholarship had 
contrived a connection between the Jews and the 
Spartans. This was known as early as about 170 B.CJE. 
When Jason, the leader of the reform party, was 
ousted by Menelaus, he fled to Sparta and there 
claimed hospitality on the grounds of tribal kin, 

But as soon as the Maccabee Jonathan, who had 
so unexpectedly risen to be High Priest and chief 
of Jewry, was firmly in the saddle, he sent an em- 
bassy to Sparta (about 143) to renew the ancestral 
bond of brotherhood. His missive to "his brother 
Spartans" is extant. In it Jonathan refers to a letter 
of a Spartan king to "Onias the High Priest/* and 
he subjoins a copy of this letter. The Spartan letter 
is a patent forgery, fabricated by some writer m 
Jonathan's service. In the spirit of the cosmopolitan 


philosophy of the period the Spartans are repre- 
sented as saying to the Jews: "Your cattle and your 
possessions are ours, and ours are yours." But most 
important, the alleged Spartan declares that "in 
a writing concerning the Spartans and the Jews, 
the statement is made that they are brothers and, 
indeed, of the race of Abraham* 95 

The forgery is not very skilful, hut it is perfectly 
consonant with the spirit of the time. Men were 
eager to "discover 55 ancient evidence as a hasis for 
the most recent friendships. But in all the forgeries 
and fictions of this class it is always the barbarians 
who claim a Hellenic descent: Romulus, the founder 
of Rome, is descended from Aeneas, a hero of the 
Iliad. It is significant of the Jewish forgery that the 
relationship is reversed: the Spartans are connected 
with the biblical patriarch. 

Here the character and significance of Maccabean 
Hellenism is plainly revealed. The reform party 
wished to assimilate the Torah to Hellenism; the 
Maccabees wished to incorporate Hellenic culture 
in the Torah. The process was like that of the Euro- 
peanization of Japan: Japan possessed scholars who 
wrote about Botticelli and scientists who made bac- 
teriological discoveries, but at the same time it could 
proclaim the Mikado's divine right of sovereignty 


on the ground of his direct descent from the goddess 
of the sun. 

This accommodation of new elements to the Bible, 
this consideration for native tradition, characterizes 
the Hellenization carried through under the Mac- 
cabees, and differentiates it from the rationalistic 
assimilation which had been the aim of the reform 
party. Let us consider, for example, the decree of 
140 B.C.E., by which the people invested Simon with 
the rulership. The document is thoroughly HeV 
lenistic in character. It must have been drafted in 
Greek. In any case, the form is altogether that of a 
Greek honorary decree, utterly impossible in 
Hebrew. A long-winded and awkward period sets 
forth the reasons for the decree, and the decree it- 
self is then expressed in an appended sentence. The 
very notion of drawing up a document to establish 
a constitution is purely Greek; the Bible provides 
no pattern for this. According to Hebrew models oiie 
would expect a general obligation of the people to 
Simon by means of an oath. But in this very docn^ 
ment, which prohibits the wearing of purple or of 
the gold brooch which are the insignia of Hellenistic 
royalty, which offers Simon the rule out of gpratitiiile 
for his deeds and in which he accepts it, a shar^ 
distinction is nevertheless drawn between the priv- 


ileged priesthood and the people; and rule is 
secured to Simon with the limitation, "until a faith- 
ful prophet shall arise." Only a divine revelation, 
not an assembly of the people, could proclaim 
eternal law for Israel 

Let us glance for a moment at Jonathan's letter 
to the Spartans. It is his desire to make known the 
kinship of the Jews with this Greek people. But at 
the same time he emphasizes that "the holy Scrip- 
tures we possess bring comfort to the Jews, and the 
help of Heaven delivers the Jews out of the hand 
of their enemies.** Naively, he informs the Spartans 
that the Jews will remember them in their prayers, 
"as proper duty requires that brothers be remem- 
bered." We may imagine that the Spartans were 
somewhat puzzled by this missive. Their reply con- 
tains only a diplomatically courteous acknowledg- 

A third example. In antiquity as today, a proper 
legal title was sought for every conquest. Greek 
opinion held that the original legitimate owners of 
a territory might maintain a permanent claim upon 
it if it had been wrested from them by force. Thus 
the opponents of the Maccabees in the Greek cities 
of Phoenicia and Palestine maintained at the time 
of the Maccabean conquest that the Jews could 


have no claim upon Palestine because they were 
immigrants who had destroyed the Canaanites: "Are 
ye not a people of robbers?** It is of the highest sig- 
nificance for the Hellenization of Judaism under 
the Maccabees that the Jews engaged in this dispute 
without objection, that is to say, they recognized 
Greek opinion as arbiter in the case. Thus, it is 
important to note, they accepted the legal principle 
of their opponents* Whereas the Bible eschews any 
secular legal basis for the claim upon the land and 
derives the Jews* right to Canaan from the divine 
promise, under the Maccabees the Jews sought a 
historical basis for their claim to the Holy Land. 
But, and this is characteristic of the manner of their 
Hellenization, they applied this new principle to 
the Bible. They declared, for example, that Palestine 
originally belonged to the heritage of Shem and tad 
then been occupied by Canaan in robber-fashion; 
or they identified Shem with Melchizedefc, the 
priest-king of Jerusalem, thus seeking to prove that 
Palestine was Shem's heritage; or they employed 
some similar device. But it did not occur to them, for 
instance, to follow the Greek historian Hecataeus 
and dismiss all the charges of their opponents with 
the claim that Palestine was completely uninhabited 
at the time of the Jewish immigration. In territorial 


disputes of this nature the Greeks always cited the 
writings of the historians, ancient documents, and 
similar sources, or even Homer; if one party to a 
quarrel found that some passage in the document to 
which k was appealing did not suit its argument, it 
declared that the offending passage had heen inter- 
polated. The Jews took over the Greek manner of 
argumentation, but for them the only source of 
knowledge remained the sacred Scripture, even 
when its evidence was against them* 

The accommodation of Hellenistic civilization to 
the Torah, begun by the Maccabees and carried for- 
ward under their rule, gave Judaism the form that 
it was to have for centuries and that, in part, pre- 
vailed until the Emancipation. Judaism of the post- 
Maccabean period is Pharisaic. But Pharisaism, 
which is first mentioned in the period of John 
Hyrcanus, who was a disciple of the Pharisees, is 
in part characterized precisely by the introduction 
of certain leading ideas of the Hellenistic period 
into the world of the Torah. 

The Pharisees or perushim, as they are designated 
in Hebrew, are the "Separated" who stand apart 
from the pagans and also from other Jews in order 
to gain sanctity. For them parush becomes a syno- 
nym for kadosh, "holy." They are not the only one 


who separated themselves. The Essenes, another 
sect, who seem to have introduced something of the 
ideas and the forms of life of Greek Pythagoreanism 
into Judaism, desired to he "holy** no less than the 
Pharisees, and their striving in this direction was 
even more pronounced than the Pharisees*. But the 
Essenes sought to realize their goal for themselves 
alone, for the members of their own order; the 
Pharisees, on the other hand, wished to embrace 
the whole people, and in particular through educa- 
tion. It was their desire and intention that everyone 
in Israel achieve holiness through the study of the 
Torah, and their guiding principle was: "Raise up 
many disciples.** 

All of this is alien to biblical Israel The prophets 
looked forward to repentance as issuing from the 
pressure of events and as a result of prophetic ad- 
monitions and divine chastisement, not as the fruit 
of study. Even for Jesus Sirach, who wrote his Book 
of Wisdom on the eve of the persecutions of Epi- 
phanes, the scholar is a distinguished man and a 
rich one. An artisan or peasant, in his view, could 
not attain learning. "He that hath little business,** 
he says, "can become wise. How can he become wise 
that holdeth the goad?** But the Pharisees wished 
to bring everyone to the Torah. "The crown of the 


Torah is set before every man." For Sirach, as for 
biblical Judaism, as indeed for all the East, it is 
assumed that only the pious can be wise: "All wis- 
dom cometh from the Lord." The Pharisees adopted 
this principle entirely, adding to it, however, that 
piety was teachable and to be attained only through 
teaching. Consequently the entire people must study 
the Torah. 

But this is a Hellenic, one might say, a Platonic 
notion, that education could so transform the indi- 
vidual and the entire people that the nation would 
be capable of fulfilling the divine task set it. Hel- 
lenism introduces the first epoch of general popular 
education in the Occident. The Hellenes and the 
Grecized Orientals assembled in the gymnasia that 
were everywhere to be found and that served at 
once as athletic fields, schools, and dubs. In late 
Hellenistic Alexandria, as in the Greek community 
of the reform party in Jerusalem, the rights of 
citizenship were granted only after a sort of "pro- 
ficiency test 9 * was passed. 

The Pharisees adopted these ideas and tendencies 
of the Hellenistic world, in that they associated the 
public sermons that had been customary since the 
time of Ezra with the teaching of the Torah. But it 
was not their ideal to fashion a Greek kalos kai 


agath&s, or "gentleman," but to fulfil the precept 
which introduces the revelation on Sinai: "Ye shall 
be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.* 1 
To become a holy nation, indeed, was a goal com- 
mon to all the Jews. But the Pharisees differed from 
the others by seeking its achievement through educa- 
tion and by not limiting this education to the Torah 
of Moses; they added many precepts wanting in the 
Torah, as, for example, the rule of washing the 
hands before meat. Any law written down naturally 
needs to be added to, and affords room for inter- 
pretation. One sect of Judaism in the Maccabean 
period, the Sadducees, wished to limit the laws to 
those expressly contained in the Torah. If something 
was neither prescribed nor forbidden in the Torah, 
they did not wish to make it so. Their principle was: 
"Only what is written is authoritative." But the 
Pharisaic idea of education promoted the tendency 
to develop the Torah as time and circumstance de- 
manded. As the source for Mich development, the 
Pharisees looked to tradition, or, as they later termed 
it, the "oral" law, which they set on a footing with 
the written Torah. This singular notion of setting 
traditional usage or halakhah alongside the writtee 
law is again Greek. It is the concept of the "un- 
written law" (agmphos nomos) , which is preserved 


not on stone or paper but lives and moves in the 
actions of the people. But whereas in the Greek 
world this notion often served to negate the written 
law, Pharisaism used the oral law to "make a fence 
for the Torak" 

In this way Maccahean Hellenism succeeded in 
parrying spiritual movements which might other- 
wise have destroyed traditional Judaism. For ex- 
ample, the Hellenistic world surrounding Judaism 
was caught up by a new revelation that solved the 
problem of evil on earth: retribution would come 
after death, when the wicked would be punished and 
the righteous rewarded and awakened to new life. 
Such notions are alien to the Bible, indeed in con- 
tradiction to it, for the Torah promises reward and 
punishment in this life. Hence the Sadducees re- 
jected the new doctrine and ridiculed the Pharisaic 
teaching of resurrection. If they had been the only 
authoritative representatives of Judaism, Judaism 
would either have lagged behind the times and 
grown rigid, as was the case with the Samaritans, 
who also rejected the new belief, or the course of 
history would have submerged Judaism and under- 
mined the Torah. The Pharisees, on the other hand, 
adopted the Hellenistic doctrine of resurrection, 
but subsumed it under the principles of the Torah. 


What to the pagans was an event dictated more or 
less by necessity, appears among the Jews as the 
working of the free will of God. According to the 
account of Flavius Josephus, the Pharisaic doctrine 
of the future life derives from the Greek teaching 
of the Pythagoreans. But among the Pythagoreans 
each soul must automatically return to new life after 
death, each according to its merit. For this fateful 
and continually operative necessity, the Pharisees 
substituted the single event of the Last Judgment, 
whose day and scope God would determine, and so 
dovetailed the new Hellenistic idea into the structure 
of biblical ideas. In its new form the adopted doc- 
trine of resurrection developed into a characteristic 
element of Jewish belief; it became, with biblical 
monotheism, its central doctrine. The Jewish prayer 
book still reads: "Praised be Thou, Lord our God 
and God of our fathers, God of Abraham, God of 
Isaac, and God of Jacob. . . . Thou art mighty for 
eternity, Lord, Thou quickenest the dead." 




The Pharisees wished to make over the entire people 
of Israel into their own image they wished to make 
of Israel, as the command on Sinai prescribed, "a 
holy nation." In consequence, they came forward 
with such comprehensive claims as no party either 
before or after them had done. In the house as upon 
the street, every movement of the pious was regu- 
lated. The Pharisees prescribed that no knot might 
be tied or loosed on the Sabbath, but they also pre- 
scribed the cases in which this rule might admit of 
exceptions. For example, a woman might tie the 
strings of her bonnet on a Saturday. So compre- 
hensive a concept of the life of a people is only pos- 
sible when and because the people are in full agree- 
ment with the dominant belief. At the time of Flavius 
Josephus that is to say, at the time of the destruc- 
tion of the Temple by the Romans (70 CUE.) the 

spiritual unity of party and people had been at- 
tained. Although the Pharisees had no constito- 
tional means of enforcing discipline, Josephus teHs 
us, they possessed such influence that the people con- 
curred with them even when they spoke against King 
or High Priest All acts of worship, prayers as well 
as sacrifices, were carried out according to their or- 
dinances. Even the Sadducees, whenever they ob- 
tained official positions, were obliged to keep to what 
the Pharisees laid down, however irksome and con- 
straining they might find it, for otherwise they would 
not be tolerated by the people. It was about the year 
100 that the Pharisees made their bid for spiritual 
domination over Israel, and their comprehensive 
claims necessarily developed into a conflict with the 
Maccabees. The ideal state, Plato declared, cannot 
come into being unless kings become philosophers 
or philosophers kings* The Pharisees were con- 
fronted with the same dilemma: the Maccabees must 
either become Pharisees or give way to Ae Phari- 

According to our sources, the vicissitudes of die 
conflict between the state and the reii^ons move- 
ment developed somewhat as follows: John Hyr- 
canus (134 to 104) was at first a friend and disciple 


of the Pharisees. He permitted them to lay their com- 
mands and prohibitions upon the people. Later he 
turned from them, allegedly because he was per- 
sonally offended by a Pharisee. "He forbade observ- 
ance of their regulations on pain of punishment, and 
joined the Sadducees. In consequence the hatred of 
the people was turned upon him and his sons. 9 ' 

The Pharisees of the period of 100 B.C.E. must not 
be imagined according to the pattern of the peace- 
loving teachers of Jabneh who were preaching har- 
mony two centuries later. Early Pharisaism was a 
belligerent movement that knew how to hate. 

When Alexander Jannaeus was defeated by the 
Arabs about 90 B.C.E. he fled to Jerusalem. This mili- 
tary reverse, as is often the case, afforded the enemies 
of the government opportunity to agitate. Civil strife 
began, and lasted for six years. When Jannaeus 
asked the insurgents what they wished, they replied, 
his death. Against this great-grandson of Mattathias 
they invited the assistance of one of the last of the 
Seleucids, Demetrius DX The armies met at 
Shechem. Demetrius urged Jannaeus' mercenaries to 
make common cause with him, the Hellene; and 
Jannaeus, for his part, sought to move the Jews who 
were with Demetrius to desert. Demetrius won. Jan- 
naeus' mercenaries were annihilated. But sympathy 


for the defeated Jews caused a portion of Demetrius* 
Jewish allies to desert the pagan victor. Demetrius 
retired from the country and Jannaeus was enabled 
to suppress the insurrection. In Jerusalem he cele- 
brated his triumph in a carousal with his concubines. 
In their presence he set up eight hundred crosses on 
which to nail the captive rebels, whose wives and 
children were slaughtered before their eyes. 

It is not easy to determine whether the insurrec- 
tion was the work of the Pharisees or whether other 
elements exploited for their own purposes the dis- 
satisfaction fanned by the Pharisees* A pregnant 
sentence of Jannaeus* is preserved in the Talmud: 
"Fear neither the Pharisees nor those who are not 
Pharisees, but only the painted ones who resemble 
Pharisees." Whatever the case may have been, the 
Pharisees later persecuted the counselors of Jan- 

But this was tinder a new regime. Upon his death- 
bed (76 B.C.E.) Jannaeus transferred the royal dig- 
nity to his wife, Salome Alexandra, and is said to 
have advised her himself to alter the government's 
policy. She named her eldest son, Hyrcanes II, High 
Priest, and entrusted the government to the hands of 
the Pharisees. Those ordinances of the time of Hyiv 
canus which had fallen into desuetude were again 


put into force, Alexandra ruled in tide only; the real 
power was in the hands of the Pharisees. 

Having come into power, the Pharisees took ven- 
geance upon the counselors of Jannaeus who had 
recommended the crucifixion of the captives by 
executing them. How did the Pharisees control the 
machinery of state? It appears that Alexandra intro- 
duced the scribes into the Sanhedrin, or council of 
state, where previously only the chief priests and 
members of the lay nobility had sat. Thus it was pos- 
sible for the Pharisees, under the leadership of 
Simon ben Shetah, to employ the might of the state 
to overwhelm their opponents. 

The anti-Pharisaic opposition consolidated itself 
under Alexandra and her second son, Aristobulus. 
As soon as the Queen died (67 B.C.E.) open war broke 
out between Aristobulus and his brother, Hyrcanus 
n, the legitimate successor. Aristobulus won. Hyr- 
canus renounced the throne, but soon sought to re- 
gain the crown with the help of the Arab Nabateans, 
to whom he promised to restore certain of the con- 
quests of Jannaeus. His confidant and instigator in 
this struggle was Antipater the Idumean, father of 
the future King Herod. In the spring of 65 Aris- 
tobulus, occupying the Temple Mount, was besieged 
by Hyrcanus and his Arab allies and negotiation? 

were under way concerning the price erf sacrificial 
victims that were necessary for the service in the 

But in the meantime the map of the world 
changed. Rome, which had long looked upon events 
in the East with indifference, was aroused by the con- 
quests of King Mithridates of Pontus. In 66 Pompey 
defeated the Pontic king and also vanquished the 
Armenian Tigranes who then ruled Syria. When 
Pompey's legate Scaurus came to Damascus, he 
heard of the war between the brothers in Jerusalem. 
Scaurus hastened thither, and his expectations were 
realized, Both parties offered him money. He de- 
cided in favor of Aristobulus. The word of the Ro- 
man was sufficient cause for the Arabs to raise the 

But Scaurus was only the forerunner of one 
greater. In the spring of 63 Pompey himself came to 
Damascus. Again the Jewish parties appeared before 
him T Pompey postponed his decision- But Aris- 
tobulus feared that Pompey might in tibe end pro- 
nounce for Hyrcanus, who was supported by a nu- 
merous Jewish embassy. By his awkward conduct 
Aristobulus quickly lost the confidence of Pompey, 
who now ordered the occupation of Jerusalem, Aris- 
tobulus' supporters refused to admit the Romans, 


but the party of Hyrcanus opened the gates of the 
city to them. The troops of Aristobulus, who had in 
the meanwhile been made captive by Pompey, again 
assembled on the Temple Mount. Pompey, sup- 
ported by Hyrcanus, began the siege. In the fall of 
63 the fortress was stormed and its defenders sub- 
dued. But even in the midst of the slaughter the 
priests continued the sacrificial service at the altar 
according to rule, paying no regard to the fury of the 
civil strife. They were struck down by the Romans 
at the very altar. 

The proper history of the Maccabees thus comes 
to an end. Judea became a vassal princedom of the 
Romans. Hyrcanus II was at its head, no longer as 
king, however, but only as High Priest. As such, he 
lost the entire non-Jewish part of his realm, the 
acquisitions of Hyrcanus I and of Jannaeus. His 
princedom still included Judea, Samaria, Galilee, 
and Idumea, but was completely cut off from the sea 
by the coast cities liberated by Pompey. Most of 
Trans-Jordan too was lost to the Jews. Then in 40 
B.C.E. Hyrcanus II was overthrown by the Parthians, 
led by his nephew Antigonus. Three years later An- 
tigonus too was vanquished by the Romans, and An- 
tipater's son Herod was entrusted with the rule of 


Judea. Herod married Mariamne (Miriam) , a grand- 
daughter of Hyrcanus II, and in 35 he made her 
brother Aristobulus High Priest; hot in the follow- 
ing year he had him killed. In 30 he also caused the 
execution of the aged Hyrcanus, who since Ms fall 
from power had heen living in Jerusalem as a pri- 
vate citizen. In the next year he also killed Mari- 
amne, thinking she had heen unfaithful to him. Next 
came the turn of Marianme's mother, Alexandra. In 
25 he caused the distant relatives of Hyrcanus to be 
tracked down and killed. Thus the last remnant of 
the house of the Hasinoneans was destroyed. 

Historians since Flavins Josephus have been wont 
to ascribe the fall of the house to intestine strife. 
"Hyrcanus and Aristobulus were responsible for this 
disaster to Jerusalem. Therefore have we lot our 
liberty, and become subject to Rome. 9 * Others main- 
tain that upon Alexandra "falls the responsibility 
for the rapid loss of the rule that had been achieved 
with such toil and danger," because she ruled accord- 
ing to the will of the enemies of the house, the Phari- 
sees, repelling the true friends of the dynasty. This 
is obviously naive. When Pompey had once appeared 
in Syria, the subjugation of Jerusalem was inevi- 
table. Rather, the quarrel between Hyrcanus and 


Aristobulus saved Jerusalem from disaster. For now 
the Romans appeared in Judea as allies of at least 
one of the Jewish parties. 

It was more important that Pharisaism had led to 
an estrangement of the people from the dynasty. Be- 
fore Pompey at Damascus there appeared an em- 
bassy of Jews, who set forth to him that Rome had 
long been the protector of the Jews, who had thus 
enjoyed autonomy. Their head had been a High 
Priest, not a king. Their present Maccabean rulers, 
they declared, had enslaved the people and destroyed 
their ancestral constitution; they maintained their 
position only by terror and by the support of their 
soldiery. Later and in a precisely similar fashion, 
after the death of Herod, the Jews petitioned that 
none of the Herodians be named king, but that they 
be permitted to live without a king, according to the 
law of their fathers. 

It is easy to see that the consistent Pharisees would 
sympathize with this position. To them it must have 
appeared that a foreign domination respecting Jew- 
ish autonomy and recognizing the Torah as the bind- 
ing law of Judaism would offer less hindrance to 
their work of education. Precisely because it was 
foreign, and hence concerned only for the prompt 
payment of tribute and for civil order, they assumed 


that the internal life of the people would remain 
outside the range of its interest According to Jo- 
sephus, the people once pelted Alexander Jannaeus 
at the Feast of Tabernacles with etrogim (citrom), 
which are used in the ritual of that festival, because, 
as the son of a mother who had been a war captive, 
he was deemed unworthy of the priestly dignity. 
This objection was in keeping with the Pharisaic in- 
terpretation of the ordinances for the marriage of 
priests (Lev. 21:7). The Pharisees mi^ht justly ex- 
pect foreign rulers scrupulously to follow the opin- 
ions of the scholars in all such matters whereas * 
Jewish king, as was the case with the Maccabees, 
would desire to shape even the internal and religious 
life of the people according to his own notions and 
not always according to the recommendations of the 
teachers of the law. In point of fact, it was tlie Ro- 
man rule which made possible and facilitated the 
development of Pharisaic Judaism to a high degree, 
until the great conflict between the two unequal 
powers set in. In this conflict the Jewish people lost 
its land, in order to win a historic continuity such 
as was vouchsafed to no other people of antiquity, 
not even to their conquerors, the Romans. 

Who will venture to decide at this date whether, 
during the crisis after the death of Alexandra, one 


or the other of the Jewish political leaders was in 
the right? In the straggle between Aristobulus and 
Hyrcanus the partisans of the latter wished to have 
a wonder-worker named Honiah call down a solemn 
cttrse upon Aristobulus. But Honiah stepped for- 
ward between the contending parlies and said: "O 
God, king of the universe, forasmuch as those stand- 
ing about me are Thy people, but the besieged Thy 
priests, may it be Thy will neither to hearken to 
those against these, nor to fulfil what these pray 
against those." Can the historian of today judge 
otherwise than in the sense of this prayer concerning 
those who stood opposed to each other in hatred at 
the fall of the house of the Hasmoneans? 

But the historian may deduce from the progress 
of history that precisely this estrangement of the 
people or its parts from the dynasty had great and, 
in the sequel, wholesome effects on Judaism. The 
subjugation of 63, by which the Jews again became 
subjects of an alien and pagan power, now no longer 
seemed a national and religious catastrophe that 
called forth despair for the future of the nation and 
the beneficence of God; rather, it seemed the just 
penalty for a dynasty of usurpers. In the apocryphal 
Psalms of Solomon, composed about this time, the 
Maccabees appear as wicked men who by violence 


occupied a throne not theirs but promised by God 
to the anointed of the house of David. The shoot of 
David, the promised Messiah, would one day crush 
the rulers and drive the heathen out; but not by 
earthly means, as the Maccabees wrongly thought 
they could do, but by the hand of God. "Happy is he 
whose help is the God of Jacob." 

With the end of the Hasmoneans the messianic 
period of Jewish history begins. 



The Maccabees saved Israel from the Greek danger. 
Bnt this danger was twofold, and the Maccabees 
eradicated one kind of Hellenism only to facilitate 
the growth of another kind. 

Hellenism was a supranational culture based upon 
reason and faith in reason. Hence its immediate ef- 
fect upon all peoples whom it embraced was every- 
where to disrupt tradition. If the Greek gymnasium 
in which naked youths indulged in sport was an 
abomination to the Maccabean Jew, in the same pe- 
riod the Elder Cato complains that the natural mod- 
esty of the Romans was being undermined by Greek 
athletic games; even during the Empire an old- 
fashioned Roman declares: "The relaxation of mor- 
als derives primarily from [Greek] cultivation of 
the body. 9 * In the Book of Maccabees the word "Hel- 
lenism" signifies "anti-Jewish." But in the Roman 
poet Plautus (died 184 B.C.E.) pergraecari ("to play 
the Greek**) is virtually equivalent to "to be de- 
bauched.*' Cicero's grandfather used to say that the 
better a Roman spoke Greek, the more certain was 
he a scoundrel 


Contact with the "enlightened** and universal cul- 
ture of Hellenism could only be salutary for one who, 
wrestling as Jacob did with the angel, did not allow 
himself to be overcome but extorted its blessing, not 
losing himself in Hellenism, but coming safely away 
with enhanced strength. Only two peoples of an- 
tiquity succeeded in doing so, the Romans and the 
Jews. The Romans succeeded because they became 
the rulers even of the Hellenic world. To be sure, 
they lost much in the process, a good part of their 
national religion, for instance, whose gods Greek 
gods supplanted. The Jews succeeded because their 
knowledge of the oneness of God and of His world 
rule in a word, the singular character of their faith 
set up an inner barrier against surrender and 
separated them from the rest of the world. 

But separation alone could by its nature only pre- 
serve past gains; it could not enrich the spirit and 
the inner life. Many other Oriental peoples, as for 
example the Egyptians, shut themselves off from 
Hellenism; but this led only to their becoming back- 
ward; and their leading classes, seduced by HeBea*- 
ism, were lost to the nation* 

Jerusalem had been threatened with a similar fate. 
The leading men of Jewry went over to a foreign 
culture. The world of Hellenism offered hospitality, 


and they joined it at table. But by its prescriptions 
concerning the sacred and the profane the Torah in- 
terfered with this elegant love feast. The leading 
social class in Jerusalem therefore determined to 
abolish the separateness of the Jewish religion and 
its religious way of life, and if necessary to employ 
force in order to transform Judaism into a "philo- 
sophic" form of paganism. This was the party of the 

The Maccabees protested. They defended the God 
of their fathers against the deity fabricated by the 
reformers. By their uprising they preserved the 
uniqueness and permanence of Judaism, and they 
preserved monotheism for the world. The victory 
and reign offtiie Maccabees (after 152 B.C.E.) put an 
end to anti-Jewish Hellenism forever. 

But the question of a final settlement with Hellen- 
ism had not been resolved. Hellenism continued to 
be a universal spiritual power, like Western civiliza- 
tion in the modern world no people could isolate 
itself from it if it wished to live and assert itself. 
Above all, isolation would have involved a break 
with the already numerous communities of the Dias- 
pora, which were scattered throughout the Greek 
world and hence were constrained to accept Hel- 


With the Maccabees, then, the internal Jewish 
reconcilement with Hellenism begins. Ideas and con- 
cepts of the new age and the new culture were taken 
over without thereby surrendering native spiritual 
values. This was managed in two ways. First, the in- 
ner strengthening of the people achieved by the 
Maccabees made it possible to adopt unaltered ideas 
and institutions which had previously seemed to 
offer, or in fact did offer, a serious threat John Hyr- 
canus was unwilling to admit a Seleucid garrison into 
Jerusalem because it was impossible for Jews and 
foreigners to live together. But he himself raised an 
army of foreign mercenaries. At the time of Epi- 
phanes the gymnasium in Jerusalem was enormously 
dangerous to Judaism. In the time of Philo the Jews 
of Alexandria thronged the games without sacrific- 
ing any part of Judaism; and the theater, amphi- 
theater, and hippodrome erected in Jerusalem by 
Herod were later visited even by orthodox Jews. 

Secondly, Hellenistic notions were appropriated 
only after their poison had been drawn. The recipe 
was very simple: the new was fitted into the system 
of the Torah and was employed the better to serve 
the God of the fathers, not to elude Him the more 
adroitly. The sect of the Essenes, for example, which 
is mentioned as early as the turn of the second eeop 


tury B,C*E, and which was highly esteemed by the 
Jews, is a thoroughly Hellenistic growth upon Pales- 
tinian soil. In their organization, their moral prac- 
tices, their usages, the Essenes imitated the Greek 
sect of the Pythagoreans. They even took it upon 
themselves to repudiate the sacrificial practices of 
the Temple. But all of this they subsumed under the 
Torah. They took the ancestral laws as their school- 
masters, zealously studied the Torah, honored Moses 
next to God, sent their offerings to the Temple, and 
in the Roman war accepted martyrdom rather than 
eat forbidden food. 

Thus Judaism was able to enrich itself with new 
and foreign ideas and to be saved from the mummi- 
fication that overtook the religion of the Egyptians, 
for example, which shut itself off from Hellenism 
completely. If today the West and Islam believe in 
resurrection, the idea is one which Maccabean Juda- 
ism took over from Hellenism and then passed on to 
Christianity and Islam. 

The Maccabees preserved the Judaism of the 
Greek period from both dissolution and ossification, 
It is through their deeds that the God of Abraham, 
Isaac, and Jacob could and did remain our God, "My 
help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and 
earth" (Ps. 121:2). 



538: Return from the Babylonian Exile . 

538-332: Palestine under Persian rule. Ezra and Nehemiah. 

332: Alexander the Great conquers the Persian Empire, in- 
cluding Palestine. 

3rd Century: Palestine under the rule of the Ptolemies of 

200: Antioehus III of Syria conquers Palestine, 

187-176: Seleucus IV Philopator. The Wisdom of Jesus the 
Son of Sirach, 

176: Antioehus IV Epiphanes. 

175-172: Jason as High Priest. Beginning of the Hellenization 
of Jerusalem'. 

172-163: Menelaus as High Priest. 

169: First Egyptian campaign of Epiphanes. Hie Temple plun- 

168: Rome conquers Macedonia. "World dominion 01 Rome 

168: Second Egyptian campaign of Epiphanes. Founding of 
Acra in Jerusalem . 

167 (end) : Temple desecrated; beginning of tn* persecrafifciis . 

166: Uprising of Mattathias. 

165: Judah succeeds to the leadership. Book of Daniel. 
Campaign of Lysias. 

164 (spring) : End of the persecutions. EpiphaBes* amnesty . 

164 (end): Temple dedication. Inauguration of Hannnloih. 


163: Death of Epiphanes. Campaign of Enpator. Defeat of 


162 (beginning): Treaty of peace. Alcimus as High Priest. 
161: Judah's victory over Nicanor. Judah's alliance with the 

Romans . 

160 (spring) : Death of Judah . 
159: Death of High Priest Alcimus. 
152 (fall) : Jonathan as High Priest. 
146: Destruction of Carthage by the Romans. 
142 (end) : Death of Jonathan. Simon. 
141 (spring) : Conquest of Acra. 
140: Simon as Ethnarch. 
154: Death of Simon. 
134-104: John Hyrcanus I, 
134-133: Antiochns VII subdues Jerusalem but confirms its 

autonomy . 

133: Beginning of the Gracchan revolution in Rome. 
104-103: Aristobulus. 
103-76: Alexander Jannaeus . 
76-67: Salome Alexandra. 
63: Pompey conquers Jerusalem. 


(167-29 BXJE.) 

Mattathias (d. 166) 





Judah Eleazar 




(d. 160) (<L 163) 


(<L 159) 





John Hyrcanns I 

(<L 135) 

(d. 135) 


Jndah Aristobnlus 

Alexander Jannaens = Salome Alexandra 
(103-76) (76-67) 


(d. 49-48) 

Antigonns Mattathias 

Aristobulus m Mariamne 
(d.35) (d.29) 

(63-40; d. 30) 



= Herod 

(37-5 BXJL) 



Antiochus III, the Great (233-187) 

Seleucus IV Philopator 

Antiochus IV Epiphanes 

Demetrius I Soter Antiochus V Eupator Alexander I Balas 1 
(162-150) (163-162) (150-145) 

Demetrius II Nicator 

Antiochus VII Antiochus VI 

(138-129) and Tryphon* 


1 Balas passed himself off as Epiphanes 9 illegitimate son. 

s Antiochus VI, while still a minor, was elevated to the throne 
by a man named Tryphon, who then waged war against Deme- 
trius II in Antiochus 9 name.